Jun 11

Ford appeals campaign audit request, despite having nothing to hide

Torontoist’s Hamutal Dotan:

Rob Ford has just filed an appeal with the Ontario Court of Justice, asking that “the decision of the Compliance Audit Committee granting an application for a compliance audit of the 2010 election campaign finances of Rob Ford be set aside” and, further, that “an Order be made rejecting the application for a compliance audit of the 2010 election campaign finances of Rob Ford.”

A couple of weeks ago, when asked if he planned to appeal any of the audit requests, Ford told the Sun: “I don’t think so… There is nothing to hide so let them audit all they want.”

via Rob Ford Appeals Audit Request, Asks for Stay of Audit Committee Decision – Torontoist.

This is in response to the several audit requests filed earlier this month. I’ve written in past posts that I don’t believe these audit requests will amount to much, even if Ford is found to have breached election law. I stand by that view — belief that Ford is being unfairly persecuted by a left-wing ‘other’ is kind of integral to his political success — but, still, this is a surprising development. There’s no way to spin this that doesn’t make Ford look like a giant hypocrite.

In an article by John Lorinc in the Globe, “veteran compliance auditor” Bernard Nayman speculates that this is the first strike in what will likely be a long war of attrition. Essentially, Ford’s lawyers can delay this thing for years.

Also worth reading: Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, who of the individuals who formally requested the audit, wrote a piece titled “Why I Sought an Audit of Rob Ford” for Spacing. Chaleff-Freudenthaler also deserves a ton of credit for getting quoted as saying “Rob Ford’s day of reckoning will come” in a national newspaper. That’s the kind of thing you tell your grandchildren about.

May 11

Campaign audit: What’s Ford thinking?

John Lorinc for the Globe & Mail:

Toronto council’s compliance audit committee today unanimously voted to order a full audit of Mayor Rob Ford’s campaign expenses in response to accusations by Toronto residents Max Reed and Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler that provincial elections laws were breached.

In their requests for a compliance audit, they alleged that Mr. Ford may have exceeded his spending limits and relied on unorthodox funding arrangements, which saw the Ford family’s holding company pay over $77,000 in campaign expenses.

via Full audit of Ford’s campaign expenses ordered – The Globe and Mail.

I previously indicated that this story wasn’t really doing much for me, but it’s been getting more interesting. Publicly, Ford and his press secretary Adrienne Batra have indicated that they’re happy to see an audit go forward. But Ford’s lawyer’s tact today was different.

The Toronto Star’s David Rider:

Tom Barlow, a lawyer representing Ford, argued strenuously against the need for such a probe, repeatedly noting that Ford has until September to file additional campaign information, and it will erase any concerns.

“The answers are in the second phase” of filing, Barlow told the panel. He later said Ford will consider going to the courts to try to get the panel’s ruling overturned.

via Audit ordered into Mayor Ford’s campaign financing – thestar.com.

That argument would seem to be the legal equivalent of telling your landlord that your rent cheque is in the mail.

It seems to me that Ford should simply submit to the compliance audit. If it’s found that his campaign violated the rules — and it seems plausible that they did — I don’t think he’d lose much face in admitting a mistake and accepting the penalty. It’s still very unlikely he’d get removed from office over this kind of thing.

So why the tough talk today and the spectre of a court challenge? Either the campaign is hiding something or Ford is doing that thing where he denies all wrongdoing until presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Fun coincidence of the day: at the same time Ford’s lawyer was talking about a court challenge over this issue, the City Clerk was apparently ceding to political pressure to not appeal an earlier judgment that called for a by-election in Ward 9. Set for July 25, the race will likely pit incumbent and Ford opponent Maria Augimeri against Rob Ford’s pal Gus Cusimano.

While losing Augimeri would be a blow to council’s left, it wouldn’t be a do-or-die situation. The balance of power at this point is firmly controlled by council’s middle, regardless of how things stand in Ward 9.

Still, I’d ask Ward 9 voters to consider that this race will likely be between a multi-decade veteran of council who has demonstrated an ability to fight for her Ward’s needs versus a candidate who has expressed a desire to always vote with the mayor.

May 11

Will anyone care about Ford’s campaign financing problems?

I have to give kudos to the people who have been digging into the irregularities found in Rob Ford’s reported campaign expenses. John Lorinc at the Globe & Mail has been lighting it up with well-researched articles that ask tough questions. And Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler and Max Reed have produced a remarkably comprehensive and well-written complaint, which has now been submitted to the city’s Compliance Audit Committee. It should get results.

Still, though, I’m not sure any of this will amount to much in the long-term. These allegations, if proven, will probably result in a fine. And that’s good — and fair — but I doubt a monetary penalty levied against the mayor is going to arouse much attention from the general public. I also doubt anyone could argue that Ford’s conduct with regard to campaign financing dramatically altered the outcome of the election.

The underlying theme to these stories seems to go something like this: Rob Ford is reckless. He has no time for technicalities or process. He tosses aside the rules in favour of going with his gut. He acts first and thinks later.

But none of that is surprising. We already know all these things about Rob Ford. Hell, for some of his supporters, these are the reasons they like him so much.

Mar 11

TCHC: What happens after everyone gets fired?

Royson James:

Mitchell accepts responsibility for the corporation’s failure to follow tendering and procurement policies. A decentralized system allowed managers to use “poor judgment, no judgment, and not do things the right way. I realize the stuff happened on my watch and I have to take responsibility,” though he says some decisions resulted in savings and social good.

The relationship with the new regime at city hall was non-existent. Ford never asked to meet with him, Mitchell says, even though Toronto Housing has $6 billion in assets.

While he had the cellphone number of ex-mayor David Miller and spoke with him three times a month, Ford has never called. “This gentleman,” he said, “is more interested in looking for gravy.”

via James: What’s behind the TCHC resignations – thestar.com.

It’s kind of interesting that our cellphone-addict mayor didn’t bother to keep the lines of communication open with the TCHC Chair like Miller apparently did.

Ultimately, though, I think Mitchell and the board played this badly. They seemed to realize too late that resigning was the only move that made sense given the way the story was being played in the media. The couple of days where they dragged their feet have likely done a lot to advance the public appetite for TCHC privatization.  That’s not a good thing.

The question I’m asking now: what happens after you fire everyone? It’s not going to magically fix things. Those that sat on the TCHC Board and the managers within the corporation were not simply evil people, contaminating all that’s good and pure. Removing them and starting the process over again isn’t guaranteed to do anything but cost the city and TCHC a lot of money.

And how far do you take it? People from both the left and the right have been calling for audits on every city agency, board and committee. And here’s the thing: I have no doubt every single one of those agencies, boards and committees has, to varying degrees, examples of waste, abuse and mismanagement. Whether it be an incorrectly expensed meal, an ill-advised ‘business trip’ or ‘retreat’, or a botched procurement contract. They’re there. We’d find them.

And that sucks.

But I think about the possibility that the city could end up in a giant circle of audits, investigations and firings for the next three years and it concerns me. How far do you push it? This isn’t city building — it’s a quixotic quest to save money that’s already been lost. To create some sort of ultra-perfect bureaucracy that can’t ever exist.

Real positive change goes beyond audits and resignation letters. It requires a permanent cultural shift.