Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford, faced a new political challenge on Friday from city councillors seeking to limit his powers after his latest obscene outburst.
Ford, under fire after admitting to having once used crack and allegedly abusing a prescription drug and other misconduct, drew gasps, giggles and at least one exclamation of “oh, my God” from reporters with remarks Thursday outside his office.
He later apologized, but it did little to stem the swelling outrage.
At a city council meeting, many councillors turned their backs on Ford when he stood to speak.
One chided him for his “disgraceful language” while a former ally said flatly: “Apology not accepted.”
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, meanwhile, signaled for the first time her willingness to step in with legislation to possibly oust the mayor, if requested by the municipality.
Toronto’s city council instead unveiled a motion Friday morning to limit the mayor’s executive powers, effectively leaving him as the city’s chief magistrate in name only.
Councillor John Fillion said the aim was to “try to contain the mayor so that he doesn’t bring down the reputation of council or of the city.”
“We can’t control his behavior, but certainly we can ensure that city business carries on as usual, perhaps even better,” he said.
The motion, said to be supported by a slim majority of councillors (28 out of 44), would reduce the mayor’s budget and staff, and strip him of the powers to appoint committee chairs and hire or fire department heads.
One councillor described the move as an attempt to build a “firewall” around the disgraced mayor.
During a morning debate the mayor — who has been alternately defiant and apologetic about his behavior — sat mostly quiet.
He asked a few questions, including about how to manage the transition of powers and raising for the first time the possibility of his resigning.
At the same time, though, he vowed to challenge any bid to oust him or limit his mayoral powers, saying he has retained a lawyer and was ready for a legal battle that could last until the next election in October 2014.
“I have no other options but to challenge this in court,” he said.
Ford pointed out also that he could have removed committee chairs who challenged him to resign, but did not.
“This (motion) will be precedent-setting and if we move ahead with this, then obviously if someone else steps out of line like I have, it is going to affect councillors and the mayor I think for years to come,” he concluded.
“So obviously I cannot support this.”
The mayor’s troubles began several weeks ago when a video surfaced that appeared to show him smoking crack.
Forced to admit he once smoked crack, he apologized for his many “drunken stupors.”
New allegations of misconduct and lewd remarks, disclosed this week, gave another boost to the spiralling scandal.
Ford’s former chief of staff, two underlings and a bar waiter alleged in police interviews that Ford had snorted cocaine and partied with a possible prostitute on St Patrick’s Day in 2012.
Police used the allegations to obtain a search warrant in an investigation of Ford’s friend, Alessandro Lisi, who faces drug and extortion charges.
Ford reacted angrily on Thursday as he arrived for work, telling reporters he would sue his former staffers and the waiter, calling the allegations “outright lies.”
The three staffers were among revelers who joined Ford as he started partying that evening at City Hall.
One of them said he saw a petite blonde blue-eyed woman named Alana he believed was a sex worker.
The staffer told police there had been rumors that Ford “had used escorts or prostitutes” and that Alana had previously been seen with Ford “at a stag party.”
“It hurts my wife when they are calling a friend of mine a prostitute. Alana is not a prostitute. She’s a friend and it makes me sick how people are saying this,” said Ford.
“I’m very happily married at home,” he added.
According to police documents, the party moved to a private room at a local bar, where a waiter claimed he saw the mayor and a woman bent over a table and “heard two sniffs from both of them.”
Ford rejected this account and allegations that, over the course of the night, he made lewd suggestions to a female policy adviser and a female City Hall security guard.
In his denial, he used graphic language about oral sex and this earned him further rebukes.