Past legal troubles, substance abuse allegations in the life of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Rob Ford
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford leaves his home on Friday May 17, 2013, after published reports said a video appears to show Ford smoking what could be crack cocaine. Ford called the allegations ridiculous. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO – After maintaining for months that he is not an addict or an alcoholic, Rob Ford announced Wednesday he is seeking help for substance abuse, even as media reports emerged with new drug and alcohol allegations.

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Here’s a look at how we got here.

February 1999 – Ford was arrested in Miami, Fla. for driving under the influence. According to reports, court documents and an affidavit from police show Ford was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He posted $1,500 bail, then pleaded no contest.

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The Globe and Mail reported Ford paid a $664.75 fine, was barred from driving in Florida for one year, and ordered to complete 50 hours of community service. His campaign said he served this by volunteering with a private summer football team that he has coached since 1997.

Ford admitted he had a joint in his possession, but the marijuana charge was eventually dropped.

April 2006 – When he was an Etobicoke councillor, Ford was removed from a Toronto Maple Leafs game for his drunken and belligerent behaviour. While he first denied his attendance at the game to the National Post, he later admitted his attendance and shared his regret.

March 2008 – Ford was charged with assaulting and uttering a death threat to his wife, Renata. The charges were withdrawn, reportedly because of his wife’s inconsistent account of the incident.

February 2010 to March 2013 – The beginnings of Rob Ford’s conflict of interest case: Ford, along with city staff, sent out donation requests to official city lobbyists using official city letterhead. The city’s integrity commissioner, Janet Leiper, found that Ford’s actions violated city council’s code of conduct rules regarding the use of city staff and city resources. Ford was ordered to pay back $3,150 donated to his football foundation by official lobbyists.

Two years later in February 2012, despite not having paid back money as ordered by city council, councillors voted in favour of rescinding the previous motion and allowing Ford to keep his money. Ford voted in favour of the motion during February’s council session and did not declare a conflict of interest.

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Lawyer Clayton Ruby then filed a conflict of interest lawsuit in September 2012 on behalf of Toronto resident Paul Magdar, claiming Ford contravened the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act when he voted in favour of a motion that benefitted him financially.

On Nov. 26, 2012 Judge Charles Hackland ruled that Ford was guilty of having violated the municipal conflict of interest rules, and should be removed from office as a result.

Ford appealed and requested a stay on the decision that would have him removed from office, which was granted by an Ontario court judge on Dec. 5, 2012.

On Jan. 25, 2013, Ford won his court battle to keep his job as mayor. A Divisional Court panel struck down the previous ruling that Ford should be dismissed from office for violating conflict of interest rules.

Ruby asked the Supreme Court of Canada to review the case on March 15, 2013. The case is currently pending review.

June 2010 – The Globe and Mail published a partial transcript of a taped telephone call, where Ford says he’ll “try” to find painkiller OxyContin for a man identified as Dieter Doneit-Henderson. Ford says he doesn’t “know any drug dealers at all.”

Ford reportedly called this a good deed gone wrong, saying he agreed to help get the drug in order to get Doneit-Henderson off the phone.

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“All I have ever done in 10 years of politics is return people’s calls and try to help out every single person…His tenor became threatening. I began to fear for my family. He clearly said on the tape that he could see my house. In my opinion, this person needs help,” Ford said in a June 2010 news conference.

October 2011 – Ford was accused of talking on his cell phone while driving. Semi-retired small business owner Sarah Barrett told the Globe and Mail she saw Ford driving in a minivan with the licence plate “ROB FORD” while talking on his phone. Ford’s press secretary didn’t deny that he was talking on his phone, but couldn’t confirm he was driving at the time, according to the Globe.

December 2011 – Ford’s mother-in-law called police between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Christmas Day, claiming the mayor had been drinking and was taking his children to Florida against the wishes of his wife, according to reports. No charges were laid.

The Toronto Sun quoted the mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, dismissing the call as a “minor disagreement and some misunderstandings.” Doug Ford added that the mayor was not drinking.

March 2012 – Ford showed up at city hall visibly intoxicated on St. Patrick’s Day 2012, according to an email from security staff sent at 3:52 a.m. on March 18.

“It was quite evident that he was very intoxicated as he had problems walking, was sweating profusely and was swearing at Provost as he walked by the security desk,” said the email, which noted Ford had “a half bottle of St-Remy French Brandy.” The email was released Nov. 1, 2013.

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August 2012 – Ford admitted he was “probably” reading at the wheel during his morning commute, but said it didn’t affect his driving. Photos posted on Twitter appear to show the mayor reading a document while driving on the Gardiner Expressway. Police urged Ford to hire a driver.

November 2012 – An Ontario judge dismissed a $6-million defamation lawsuit against Ford, involving allegations from Boardwalk Pub restaurant owner George Foulidis, who sued Ford alleging that the mayor suggested a sole-sourced, untendered, 20-year leasing deal between Foulidis’s company, Tuggs Inc., and the city was corrupt and that it “stinks to high heaven.”

February 2013 – A Compliance Audit Committee voted against prosecuting him after a Feb. 1 forensic audit accused the mayor of over-spending by $40,168, or 3 per cent of the maximum stipulated by the Municipal Elections Act. The audit enumerated more than a dozen contraventions of the law made by Ford’s camp, ranging from wrongly attributed expenses to accepting corporate donations.

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Shortly after the decision, Ford faced the media and expressed his relief over the matter.

“I’m very pleased with compliant audit’s decision and happy the process is finally over,” said Ford. “It’s a great day for democracy, I’m happy the committee understands we ran a clean professional and above-board campaign.”

During the committee meeting, Ford’s lawyer Tom Barlow, suggested there was no “intentional misconduct” by the mayor’s campaign. Barlow also said prosecuting the mayor was not in the public interest.

February 2013 – Ford was allegedly asked to leave the Toronto Garrison Ball because organizers were concerned he was impaired. The Toronto Star reported at least eight people told Toronto Councillor Paul Ainslie they were concerned about the mayor’s state, causing Ainslie to take steps resulting in Ford’s departure from the event.

But according to CityNews, six of 13 organizers of the military gala disputed these claims in an open letter:

“To my knowledge, no member of the event’s organizing committee, including Councillor Paul Ainslie, directed the Mayor to leave the event that night,” read the statement.

Ford denied The Star’s story, including the claim that he has a drinking problem, calling the report an “outright lie.”

March 2013 – Ford denied allegations from former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson, who posted a photo of herself and Ford on Facebook, and gave several media interviews where she expressed concern that Ford was impaired, had groped her, and had propositioned her to visit him in Florida without his wife.

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May 2013 – Ford was accused of violating the city’s municipal licensing and standards code after placing fridge magnets bearing his name and home phone number on cars parked outside an Etobicoke church.

The Globe and Mail reports that George Christopoulos, the mayor’s press secretary, issued a statement, saying: “There is no law prohibiting the mayor from handing out magnets or providing residents with a number to contact him.”

But the city’s licensing director Richard Mucha said city bylaw 545-313 states depositing handbills on vehicles is prohibited. City officials dropped the complaint in May 2013.

August 2013 – Ford’s behaviour at the Pilaros Taste of the Danforth festival prompted questions after several videos of the mayor were uploaded to YouTube.

He admitted he was drunk at the festival on his weekly radio show Nov. 3.

“The Danforth, that was pure stupidity,” he said. “I shouldn’t have got hammered down at the Danforth.”

October 31, 2013 – Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair announced the recovery of a video of Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine.

Blair said the video contains “images consistent with those that had been previously reported in the press,” appearing to refer to reports from Gawker and the Toronto Star in May.

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“It’s safe to say the mayor does appear in the video,” Blair said.

“As a citizen of Toronto, I’m disappointed. I know this is a traumatic issue for the citizens of this city and for the reputation of this city and that concerns me.”

But the police chief also said there’s nothing in the video that would allow police to “form reasonable grounds” to lay a criminal charge.

Ford said he can’t comment on a video he hasn’t seen, and has no plans to resign as mayor. He has called for police to release the video, and has repeated he is not a drug addict or an alcoholic since Blair’s announcement.

Read more: Everything Mayor Rob Ford has said about crack video allegations

November 5, 2013 – Mayor Ford admitted he has used crack cocaine in the past, suggesting he may have been drunk at the time.

“Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine… probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately, about a year ago,” he said.

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When asked where he was when it happened, Ford said: “I don’t even remember—after some of the stuff that you guys have seen me—the state I’ve been in. It’s a problem.”

November 7, 2013: A new video of Ford was posted online, showing him in an apparent rage, slapping his legs and shouting that he wants “10 minutes to make sure he’s dead.”

The context of the video is unknown and the mayor wouldn’t clarify except to say he was “extremely, extremely inebriated” in the video, and that it was “extremely embarrassing.”

WARNING: There is graphic language contained in the below video, purchased by the Toronto Star and obtained by Global News. 

November 14, 2013: Ford first referenced help he was getting for his substance abuse issues after making sexually explicit remarks while denying reports he made lewd comments to a female aide in 2012.

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“I am receiving professional support and seeking advice from people with expertise.”

This came several hours after Ford threatened to sue former staffers and a bar employee after new allegations were released regarding his behaviour.

November 15, 2013: Ford vowed to take legal action after Toronto City Council voted 39-3 in favour of taking away his ability to appoint and remove heads of committees. The mayor retained a lawyer, but never filed a lawsuit.

December 4, 2013: Court documents are released that allege Ford met with and bought hard drugs from people who bragged they had pictures of him “on the pipe” and “doing the hezzah,” according to police wiretaps. (“hezzah” is apparently slang for heroin)

Ford also offered “five thousand and a car” to get the alleged crack video back, according to this round of documents, which contain allegations that have not been proven in court.

December 17, 2013: Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale served a libel notice to Ford and vowed to proceed with a defamation lawsuit after the mayor issued what Dale deemed an insufficient public apology over an apparent insinuation that Dale was a pedophile.

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Ford later issued a second apology in the form of an open letter Dec. 18, and Dale dropped the lawsuit the following day.

January 21, 2014: A video of Ford drunkenly rambling profanity in Jamaican patois in a Rexdale restaurant surfaced on YouTube, in the face of his claims to have sworn off booze. He can be heard referring to Police Chief Bill Blair and five months of surveillance – “do you know how much money that cost?” – as well as his own visits to “Jane and Finch” and “Jamestown” and Malvern.

“I was with some friends and what I do in my personal life … has nothing to do with you guys. It’s my own time, it’s my own friend,” said Ford of the video.

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“If I speak that way, it’s how I speak with some of my friends, I don’t think it’s discriminatory at all.”

January 29, 2014: A statement of claim is filed against Ford, who’s being sued for more than $1 million in damages for his alleged role in the jailhouse assault of his sister’s former partner Scott MacIntyre.

Dennis Morris, Ford’s lawyer, called the allegations “without fact or foundation” and denied the mayor conspired to have MacIntyre attacked.

MacIntyre was attacked in March 2012 by some inmates while he was being held at the Metro West Detention Centre after uttering threats against the mayor. His statement of claim says he told the mayor to “be careful” how he treated him while leaving his home in January 2012 because he knew “things about Ford and his family which had not been made public.”

In a statement of defence filed March 19, Ford said the footage was recorded without his consent or knowledge and shows him “discussing and imitating, as a joke, the pre-match rant of a professional wrestler.”

March 3, 2014: Ford made a highly-anticipated appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, with the host introducing him by saying, “our first guest tonight has tripped, bumped, danced, argued and smoked his was into our national consciousness.” Ford told Kimmel he wasn’t elected to be perfect but to clean up the financial mess at City Hall.

March 14, 2014: Doug Ford accuse actor Kevin Spacey of being an “arrogant S.O.B.” While the mayor was waiting to appear on the Jimmy Kimmel Live talk show in Los Angeles, Doug Ford said they were told they couldn’t talk to or take a picture with Spacey. The comment is made on their “Ford Nation” show on YouTube. The next day Spacey posts a doctored photo on Twitter of himself between the Ford brothers on the “Ford Nation” set with the caption “All you had to do was ask, guys. Here’s your pic.”

March 19, 2014: A detailed description of the so-called Ford crack video is included in document released by a Toronto judge. The document, containing police allegations used to obtain search warrants in an ongoing investigation involving Ford, says the video was filmed on Family Day weekend in 2013. Police also allege another video shows an alleged gang member describing how to “catch a mayor smoking crack.”

April 3, 2014: An Ontario Superior Court judge ordered the release of information that police allege they heard on wiretaps, but has not been proven in court, including one between an alleged gang member and a woman whose home police allege is a “frequent hangout for crack cocaine users.” Police say it suggests the crack video was make at that home. And Ford said that he felt his name has been “cleared” when Ontario Provincial Police announced they had stepped back from a lengthy criminal investigation into his activities.

April 30, 2014: Mayor Ford says he will step aside to seek help for substance abuse. 

With files from James Armstrong and Anna Mehler Paperny, and The Canadian Press

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published May 17, 2013 and has been updated to include recent events.

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