TORONTO — Toronto police said Thursday they have obtained a video that appears to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking from a crack pipe — a video that Ford had claimed didn’t exist and has been at the core of a scandal that has embarrassed and gripped Canada for months.
Police Chief Bill Blair said the video, recovered after being deleted from a computer hard drive, did not provide grounds to press charges. Ford, a populist mayor who has repeatedly made headlines for his bizarre behavior, vowed not to resign.
Ford, speaking outside his office door, said with a smile: “I have no reason to resign.” He said he couldn’t defend himself because his case is now being handled by authorities, adding: “That’s all I can say right now.”
He said he needed to “go back and return my phone calls.”
The scandal has been the fodder of jokes on U.S. late night television that has cast Canada’s financial capital in an unflattering light.
Ford was elected mayor of Canada’s largest city three years ago on a wave of discontent simmering in the city’s outlying suburbs. Since then Ford has repeatedly appeared in the news for his increasingly odd behavior. He has repeatedly refused to resign.
Ford faced allegations in May that he had been caught on video puffing from a glass crack pipe. Two reporters with the Toronto Star said they saw the video, but it has not been released publicly. Ford maintains he does not smoke crack and that the video does not exist.
Blair said he was “disappointed” after viewing the video which he said “depicts images that are consistent with those previously reported in the press.”
Blair said the video will come out when Ford’s friend and sometimes driver, Alexander Lisi, goes to trial on previous drug charges. Blair did not say who the computer belonged to but police later said Lisi has now been charged with extortion for trying to retrieve the recording from an unidentified person.
“As a citizen of Toronto I’m disappointed,” Blair said. “This is a traumatic issue for citizens of this city and the reputation of this city.”
Before the disclosure, Ford angrily screamed at reporters to get off his property as he left his house Thursday morning. At City Hall, tours were given of his office’s Halloween decorations.
The prosecutor in the Lisi case released documents Thursday showing they had rummaged through Ford’s garbage in search of evidence of drug use. They show that they conducted a massive surveillance operation monitoring the mayor and Lisi following drug use allegations.
The documents show that friends and former staffers of Ford were concerned that Lisi was “fuelling” the Toronto mayor’s alleged drug use.
The documents also detail evidence that led to Lisi’s arrest on drug and extortion charges.
The police documents, ordered released by a judge, show Ford receiving suspicious packages from Lisi on several occasions.
“Lisi approached the driver’s side of the Mayor’s vehicle with a small white gift bag in hand; he then walked around to the passenger side and got on board,” reads one document dated July 30, 2013. “After a few minutes Lisi exited the Escalade empty handed and walked back to his Range Rover.”
Another dated July 28 says Lisi “constantly used counter surveillance techniques” when he met with Ford that day.
On August 13 documents say Lisi and Ford met and “made their way into a secluded area of the adjacent woods where they were obscured from surveillance efforts and stayed for approximately one hour.” Police later recovered a vodka and juice bottle from where they met. “So as not to reveal that the original bottles were seized replacement ones were left behind,” the document says.
Ford recently vouched for Lisi in a separate criminal case, praising his leadership skills and hard work in a letter filed with the court. The letter was part of a report prepared by a probation officer after Lisi was convicted of threatening to kill a woman.
Ford said previously that he was shocked when Lisi was arrested earlier this month, calling him a “good guy” and saying he doesn’t abandon his friends.
The documents also say that Payman Aboodowleh, a volunteer football coach at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School, where Ford coached the team, told police that Lisi met Ford through him. He told police he was “mad at Lisi because he was fuelling the mayor’s drug abuse,” the document says.
Ford former staffer, Chris Fickel, told police he didn’t know where Ford got marijuana from, but “has heard that ‘Sandro’, Lisi’s nickname, may be the person who provides the mayor with marijuana and possibly cocaine,” the document alleges. However, Fickel added, he has never seen Lisi provide the mayor with drugs. The mayor would call Fickel and tell him to tell “Sandro” that “I need to see him,” Fickle told police.
Toronto councilor Paula Fletcher said Ford needs to act in the best interests of the city. She said all citizens of Toronto are disappointed.
“The mayor has said there wasn’t a video,” Fletcher said. “He has said there is a conspiracy against him. With Chief’s Blair’s press conference I think that’s put to rest.”
Councilor Joe Mihevc said he continues to be shocked by the “depth and revelations that are coming out”
“The mayor has to come clean and do it as soon as possible. He needs to talk honestly about his use of illicit drugs,” Mihevc said.