, Toronto, Nov 16 – Toronto city councillors voted to limit their hell-raising mayor’s powers after his latest obscene outburst.
Rob Ford is under fire for a bizarre series of admitted and alleged misdeeds, most recently drawing mockery and gasps when he used obscene language while denying sexual harassment claims.
He later apologized for Thursday’s outburst, but it did little to stem the swelling outrage, which began this month when he admitted he had smoked crack cocaine during a drunken rampage.
On Thursday, Premier Kathleen Wynne, the leader of the province of Ontario, signalled a willingness to find legal means to oust the mayor, if asked by the municipality, but later backed off.
Instead, Toronto’s city council passed a motion on Friday morning limiting the mayor’s executive powers, effectively leaving him as the city’s chief magistrate in name only.
Councillor John Fillion said ahead of the vote that 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, supported by an overwhelming majority of councillors, reduces the mayor’s budget and staff, and strips him of the powers to appoint committee chairs as well as hire or fire department heads.
One councillor described the move as an attempt to build a “firewall” around the disgraced mayor.
Ford responded with a pledge to mount a legal challenge to the “precedent-setting” censure. “I have no other options but to challenge this in court,” he said.
A legal opinion circulated by Ford staffers argued the changes to city governance “could be perceived by the public” as an attempt to punish Ford “for alleged personal misconduct.”
“There is no evidence before the council suggesting that the mayor has failed to exercise, or abused, his powers, or been unwilling or unable to fulfil them,” it noted.
The mayor’s troubles began several weeks ago when a video surfaced in police hands that appeared to show him smoking crack.
Forced to admit he once smoked the illicit drug, he apologized for his antics, including his many “drunken stupors.”
Then new allegations of misconduct, disclosed this week, and lewd remarks 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 himself does not face any criminal charges.
Ford reacted angrily as he arrived for work on Thursday, 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 the police transcripts, 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 an obscene metaphor for oral sex, causing further outrage.