UPDATE: The Ontario NDP said on Thursday that the Ombudsman has deferred the matter to the Integrity Commissioner
Interim OPP commissioner Brad Blair is calling for the Ontario Ombudsman to review the appointment of Ron Taverner — a long-time friend of Premier Doug Ford — to OPP commissioner over “potential political interference.”
In a letter sent to the Ombudsman, Blair said, “As you are undoubtedly aware, there exists in the Legislative Assembly and now in the Ontario public consciousness, growing concerns about the hiring process of the new OPP Commissioner … I am writing to you with the conviction that these concerns must be addressed by impartial review.”
Blair was also a candidate for the permanent commissioner position and, in the letter to the Ombudsman, even refers to himself as being “a front runner candidate” during the hiring process.
Blair said that the “facts of the hiring process” raise a question as to whether public confidence in the OPP has been harmed as a result of Taverner’s appointment.
Specifically, Blair stated that the job qualifications for the position “changed without convincing justification.”
Prior to Taverner’s appointment, qualifications required for the job of commissioner were widened, with the Progressive Conservatives saying that was done to widen the pool of applicants so more qualified applicants could apply.
Sylvia Jones, the minister of community safety and correctional services, said in a statement the government stands by the process leading to Taverner’s appointment.
Watch: Lawyer of interim OPP commissioner says call for review of Taverner appointment is to protect integrity of police force
“We are not going to comment on Mr. Blair’s motivations for using the Office he holds to raise these issues,” Jones said. “We will explore the appropriate venue to review the content of a letter that we fully and completely dispute.”
Jones maintains Taverner has more than 50 years of “exemplary” police service.
“It is unfortunate that this service has been unfairly maligned by unfounded allegations about the appointment process,” she said.
Jones said her government would respect an inquiry if launched by the provincial ombudsman and would cooperate with any such review.
WATCH: Doug Ford says he had no role in appointment of new OPP commissioner. Travis Dhanraj reports.
In the letter, Blair also said, “The decision (to appoint Taverner) appears to be made prior to the cabinet meeting.”
Blair alleges that he was supposed to receive a call on either Nov. 21 or Nov. 28 regarding the commissioner appointment because Cabinet meets on Wednesdays, but he instead received a call on Tuesday, Nov. 20.
Blair said he was told “that a name was before the Secretary of Cabinet … (and) that this name was being ‘socialized.'”
“I understood this to mean that a candidate’s name had been selected,” Blair said.
Blair added, “A concerning history already exists between Premier Ford’s office and the OPP.” He said he was referring to “requests from Premier Ford for a specific security detail, staffed with specific officers that Premier Ford would feel comfortable with.”
Blair alleges that Premier Ford suggested, “If (former OPP) Commissioner Hawkes would not address the issue, perhaps a new Commissioner would.”
He said Ford’s requests were subsequently approved.
Blair also alleges that Premier Ford’s Chief of Staff Dean French requested that the OPP purchase a “large camper type vehicle,” have it customized and have the costs “kept off the books.”
Global News has learned that another investigation is also currently underway by the Office of the Integrity Commissioner into Taverner’s appointment following formal complaints from NDP MPP Kevin Yarde and Liberal leader John Fraser.
Global News has reached out to the Premier’s office for comment on the story but has not yet received a response.
Premier Ford has previously said that Taverner’s appointment “went through a transparent process.”
Read the OPP interim commissioner’s letter below: