ABOVE: Does using taxpayer-funded staffers to buy booze count as gravy? Peter Kim reports.
TORONTO – As a councillor, Rob Ford condemned perks, expense accounts and the multifarious “gravy train”; as mayor, the refrain continued. But recently released court documents suggest he frequently used taxpayer-funded staff to buy him booze.
The documents also suggest:
- The mayor asked staffers to buy him alcohol because he didn’t want to be seen in the LCBO.
- The mayor was allegedly inebriated numerous times at city hall during business hours.
- The mayor asked his staffers to organize a party for his football team
- The mayor gave raises to people who didn’t quit
The allegations are from interviews with Ford’s aides detailed in mostly unredacted documents from a police investigation into Ford and his friend Alexander “Sandro” Lisi. None of the statements have been proven in court.
On Thursday morning, Ford claimed he would be taking legal action against his former staffers. It isn’t clear how he would do this, given that the statements were made to police during an investigation.
Kia Nejatian worked as an Executive Assistant to the mayor from November 2010 until June 2013, when he resigned amid allegations the mayor had been filmed smoking what might be crack cocaine.
Nejatian spoke to police on July 2 and told them he had never seen the mayor drink or do drugs but had seen Ford intoxicated and smelled alcohol on his breath.
According to police, he also said it was “common knowledge” the mayor used his staff for personal needs. Among those needs were requests to buy liquor.
Documents indicate Nejatian told police that usually twice a week, in the mid-afternoon, he would go to the LCBO at Atrium on Bay to buy a mickey of Iceberg Vodka for the mayor. Nejatian said former staffers Chris Fickel and Isaac Shirokoff would buy the mayor alcohol if he was away.
Nejatian also told police had found a rolled marijuana cigarette in the mayor’s office.
Fickel told police in a separate interview that buying alcohol for the mayor was a “regular occurrence.”
Fickel spoke to Detective Shertzer and Detective Constable Davey on June 28 and told them junior staffers were asked to buy the mayor mickeys of vodka.
“This could happen at any time during the day,” according to the police documents. “The mayor always wanted ‘Iceberg’ vodka.”
Fickel told police that in six months, he bought the mayor alcohol between seven and ten times.
“FICKEL believes that when you combine other staffers, buying alcohol for the Mayor would be a regular occurrence,” the police documents state.
He also told police that he had never seen the mayor drink in the office but had seen him drunk.
Fickel also told police the mayor asked him to organize a party at the mayor’s home for players on the Don Bosco football team. This happened on May 22, the day the mayor was fired as coach of the Catholic school team. Then-Chief of Staff Mark Towhey told Fickel not to. The next day, Towhey was fired.
Towhey’s departure sparked a wave of resignations that included Isaac Ransom, George Christopoulos, Brian Johnston and Kia Nejatian.
After those resignations, Fickel told police, everyone in the office got a substantial raise. His salary jumped $15,000 to $50,000 annually.
George Christopoulos was the mayor’s press secretary until his resignation in May. In an interview with police he said that David Price, the mayor’s director of logistics, “badgered the mayor to give him a job.”
Price’s hiring created tension in the office, Christopoulos told police, because he was paid $130,000 – about twice as much as the last person who had his job.