TORONTO – A high-ranking provincial police officer who was fired Monday alleges it is reprisal for waging a legal battle over the appointment of a friend of the premier’s as commissioner.
Brad Blair has asked the courts to force the provincial ombudsman to investigate the hiring of Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner, a long-time friend of Premier Doug Ford, as the new Ontario Provincial Police commissioner.
The government has denied any political interference in Blair’s firing, and said the decision to fire him came from the public service because Blair released confidential OPP information through his court filings.
Blair was fired by Mario Di Tommaso, deputy minister of community safety, and Blair alleges that was a conflict of interest because Di Tommaso was part of the hiring panel that selected Taverner and is therefore part of the case before the court.
“It is patently clear to me that this is reprisal and an attempt to muzzle me, and that this reprisal is directly connected to my good faith efforts to seek redress before the Divisional Court and the provincial ombudsman,” Blair writes in an affidavit filed Tuesday in court.
If there were concerns about the material Blair was filing in court being in the public realm, the attorney general could have asked the court to seal the documents, Blair writes.
Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones said Blair breached his duties as a police officer and as a public servant.
“No one is above the law,” she said in the legislature. “This individual chose to sully the reputation of the excellent OPP officers who serve our public and the people of Ontario. He was terminated as a result.”
Blair initially requested an ombudsman investigation into Taverner’s appointment in December, amid what he called “growing concerns of political interference” in the hiring process. He said it had deeply affected the morale of rank-and-file officers.
The NDP is calling for a public inquiry into the whole situation.
Taverner, 72, initially did not meet the requirements listed for the commissioner position. The Ford government has admitted it lowered the requirements for the position to attract a wider range of candidates. His appointment has been delayed until the integrity commissioner completes an investigation into his hiring.