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Councillor takes Police Services Board to court over investigation

Toronto City Councillor Michael Thompson answers questions from the media at City Hall in Toronto on November 04, 2013. Deborah Baic / The Globe and Mail

TORONTO – Councillor Michael Thompson is taking the city’s Police Services Board to court over attempts to initiate a provincial investigation into comments he made to the Toronto Star as a potential breach of the Board Members Code of Conduct.

In a Feb. 13 letter to the councillor, signed by fellow members of the police services, board Mike Del Grande and Andy Pringle, say the comments Thompson made to the newspaper in a Feb. 12 article “may appear” to be a “potential breach” of the conduct rules.

The letter states the board has requested the Ministry of the Solicitor General to investigate the councillor’s comments and urged him to “not participate in any matters which may pertain to personnel (personal), legal or contractual issues involving the personal interest of Chief Blair, as opposed to the organizational interests of the Toronto Police Service.”

In the article, Thompson criticized the police service’s strip search policy and said he would not support renewing Chief Bill Blair’s contract when it expires in April, 2015. “We need fresh blood,” he’s quoted as saying.

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According to a press release issued by Clayton Ruby, whose firm is representing Thompson in court, the councillor was not given a copy of the complaint and was not allowed to attend the meeting during which the vote to investigate him took place. But Pringle and Del Grande did.

“Even more Kafkaesque, the two complainants were allowed to attend the meeting and vote on their own complaint.  With a quorum of four (two of whom were the complainants), the Board decided that Councillor Thompson ‘appears’ to have ‘potentially’ breached the Code of Conduct,” the press release reads.

Thompson is going to court to try and stop the investigation.

The press release suggests the vote seeks to “stifle public debate, violate free expression and undermine the Board’s own mandate of exercising vigorous civilian oversight of the Toronto Police.”

“Simply put, it cannot be a violation of the Code of Conduct to criticize the Chief of Police.”

Mayor Rob Ford wouldn’t comment Tuesday on whether he’d support an extension of Bill Blair’s contract, saying instead “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

But the mayor did say Thompson has a “right to speak [his] mind.”

“Obviously I’ve had my differences with the chief. There’s no secret about that. But what the board does that’s their prerogative. Michael’s my representative on that board and if he has a difference or problem with the board and or the chief, then that’s his prerogative to view his concerns but it’s not for me to comment on.”

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A possible extension of Bill Blair’s contract beyond April, 2015 has been a source of controversy since November when Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, called on the police chief to resign following a Halloween press conference. During that press conference, Blair revealed the existence of a video which shows Mayor Rob Ford smoking what might be crack cocaine and described it as “disappointing” to watch.

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