Rob Ford had alcohol problem, verbally abused staff: police document

Rob Ford addresses council at the beginning of Wednesday's meeting (Peter Lozinski/Ryersonian Staff)

Rob Ford addresses council at the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting (Peter Lozinski/Ryersonian Staff)

Rob Ford is threatening to sue former staffers who told police about how their former boss allegedly abused his power and position.

A court document released Wednesday afternoon shows Toronto police conducted extensive interviews with Ford’s inner circle of city staff, who described that they withstood verbal abuse from him and ran his personal errands.

The 474-page police affidavit surrounding the arrest of Ford’s friend and occasional driver Alexander “Sandro” Lisi was first released to the public on Oct. 31 with about half the content blacked out.

Though dozens of pages, including statements from a key Ford staffer, are still redacted, most of the document has been publicly released. It provides new insight into the mayor’s office during the time of the police investigation.

None of the evidence included in the affidavit has been proven in court.

Mark Towhey, the mayor’s former chief of staff and part of Ford’s inner circle at the time, told police Ford routinely sent staff to buy alcohol for him. Staffers would receive calls from Ford late at night or early in the morning, Towhey said, adding that Ford was “infamous for these types of calls.”

Towhey recalled several instances of an inebriated Ford on the job. He outlined an instance when the mayor was “verbally abusive and being inappropriate” to former female staffer, Olivia Gondek.

According to Towhey, Gondek was trying to calm the angry mayor as he yelled at staffers Brooks Barnett and Earl Provost. Ford pushed Provost down and raised his hand as if to punch him, Towhey told police. Ford also charged at Barnett and pushed him against the wall, pulling his hand back as if to strike him, he said.

Barnett resigned last week, in the wake of Ford’s admission to smoking crack. Provost replaced Towhey last May as Ford’s chief of staff.

Towhey said the physical altercation took place on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, the same day Ford visited the restaurant Bier Markt with his staffers.

On Thursday, Ford said the accusations were false and he intends to take legal action against his former staffers Towhey, George Christopoulos and Isaac Ransom.

Leonardo Navarro, a server at Bier Markt, said he did not see drugs, but he heard two sniffs from Ford and the unknown woman as they were huddled under the table. Navarro said that Barnett had later approached him and said, “Don’t tell anyone about what you saw here tonight.”

On the day courts released the first of the affidavit material, Lisi, 35, was charged with extortion. He was released the day after on a $5,000 bail. Earlier in October, Lisi was arrested on charges of possessing and trafficking marijuana.

The document includes an interview with Towhey in which he said Provost observed the mayor consume what Provost believed was OxyContin, a painkiller, before they left the mayor’s office on St. Patrick’s Day.

Christopoulos, Ford’s former press secretary, said in his interview that Ford was prescribed the medicine for an infection he developed in his esophagus from not cleaning his asthma inhaler. He also said many on the mayor’s staff believed Ford had an issue with both alcohol and prescription pills.

At Bier Markt, several patrons, employees and the general manager reported seeing the mayor take a “bump” from his wrist, a reference to inhaling cocaine, with an apparent prostitute.

Leonardo Navarro, a server at Bier Markt, said he did not see drugs, but he heard two sniffs from Ford and the unknown woman as they were huddled under the table. Navarro said that Barnett had later approached him and said, “Don’t tell anyone about what you saw here tonight.”

The document shows a history of Ford staffers trying to contain the mayor’s bad habits.

Christopoulos also said in an interview that women have come to the office claiming to have smoked marijuana with the mayor. They would come asking for a job that the mayor had offered them and Christopoulos would try to talk them out of it, he said.

Christopoulos said he received several phone calls late at night from Ford where he spoke “90 words in 15 seconds.” He also said he often visited the mayor’s home whenever there was an incident at the mayor’s home.

Christopoulos resigned on May 28 because the mayor was “incapable of taking direction,” he told police.

Former staffers also told police that the mayor often asked them to perform personal errands outside of their regular office hours.

Chris Fickel, one of the mayor’s special assistants who volunteered with the Don Bosco football team, which Ford coached, emphasized that the mayor always told him he did not have to volunteer with the team, but he enjoyed that aspect of his job.

Fickel said he was Ford’s “body man” and was frequently on call. He said he would sometimes only get a 15-minute warning to accompany Ford to an event.

Fickel said the mayor often verbally abused him saying, “This fucking kid is useless.”

Ford would also call him to do menial tasks around his home, Fickel said, like changing the light bulbs in the front lawn, the batteries in his children’s toys or buying groceries.

He said he bought alcohol for Ford seven to 10 times within a six-month period, and that the mayor’s preference seemed to be Iceberg Vodka. He said that staffers would purchase alcohol for the mayor a total of 10 times per month.

Fickel said the mayor often verbally abused him saying, “This fucking kid is useless.”

The document also stated that the mayor hired many of his close friends to work in his office.

David Price, who has known the Ford brothers for 35 years, was hired in April as the director of operations and logistics with double the salary given to other staffers.

Many in the mayor’s office said they were aware that Price had been involved in past drug dealings. When they expressed their disapproval to the mayor, they said Ford told them if they didn’t like it, they could quit. Police interviews with Price are still blacked out.

The documents also show that Ford’s senior staff was aware of the alleged crack video before news broke on May 16. U.S. website Gawker had called the mayor’s office in an attempt to get Ford to comment on the allegations. Towhey said that Ford merely waved it off and said, “Don’t worry about it, there is no tape.”

On May 17, the day after news of the video broke, Towhey and the senior staff had a meeting to discuss possible options for the mayor. Together, they all decided that Ford had three options: to fight through it, to resign or to seek treatment. Towhey presented these options to Ford that same day and said the mayor laughed them off.

Towhey said he received a call from Ford on May 22, after being fired as Don Bosco high school’s football coach. Towhey told police Ford was in tears, completely distraught.

When the mayor wanted to use city staff and resources to throw a party for his football team that night, Towhey refused and asked if Ford was high.

Towhey said Ford screamed and told him to mind his own business. The next day, Towhey was fired.

After six staff resigned in the wake of the crack video scandal in May, the mayor offered the remaining staff a substantial raise in their salary to convince them to stay, Towhey said.

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