BY EDWARD KEENAN
Remember back to that time long ago, in the olden days of early 2013, when Rob Ford was embroiled in a conflict-of-interest scandal that almost saw him removed from office? What did he say about his understanding of a conflict of interest back then? It’s tricky to remember through the fog of crack smoke and crowd of criminals and the mist of drunken stupor that’s enveloped Ford since then. But his ideas about conflicts of interest seemed really important back then. Oh, here it is:
“I always thought, for 12 years, and I still believe, that a conflict is when the city has a benefit and when I have a benefit. This is a personal issue and had nothing to do with the city.”
He repeated it again and again. It was a wrong definition of conflict in the circumstances, too limited, but he certainly underlined that it was his clear understanding. If the city has a financial interest in a matter and he personally has a financial interest, he’s in a conflict of interest. Right.
And now what is it he and his brother have always said about the mayor’s many-many-many-many-many10 scandals and ethics breaches? Oh right, that they aren’t important, because:
“You’re never ever going to see a financial scandal with Rob Ford.”
Hmmm. What are we to make, then, of the front page of today’s Globe and Mail, that outlines a set of actions by the mayor and his brother:
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his councillor brother Doug Ford helped one of the world’s largest commercial printers, RR Donnelley and Sons, lobby city staff about taking over part of the city’s printing operations around the same time the Ford family’s label business was negotiating to accept business referrals from Donnelley, a Globe and Mail investigation has found.
In June, 2011, Mayor Ford and his brother met with six officials from Donnelley Canada who were urging city staff to hand their company part of Toronto’s $9-million printing operation. No one in the civil service was told that Donnelley – a Chicago-based Fortune 500 company – around that time was arranging to refer clients to the Ford family business, Deco Labels and Tags.
This comes just a few weeks after a different Globe story outlining similar behaviour on behalf of a different company, this one already a large Deco Labels client:
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his councillor brother Doug Ford helped one of the customers of their family business to lobby the city’s highest ranking bureaucrat for a special property tax break and repeatedly intervened with city staff without disclosing the company had a commercial relationship with the Ford family, a Globe and Mail investigation has found.
So let’s be clear on what appears to be the case here. The Ford brothers went out of their way, the Globe alleges, to personally lobby city staff (calling for and attending meetings, and so on) to direct hundreds of thousands or potentially millions of dollars in tax breaks and city business to people they were doing business with. People who could or would direct thousands or potentially millions of dollars in business to the Ford family company. They did not disclose this possible business interest to the city staff members they were lobbying.
Seems to me like Ford personally had an interest, and the city had an interest. So it fits even Rob Ford’s narrow definition of a conflict of interest. And it seems fairly clear that this involved money. City money, and potentially lots of it.
When did Doug Ford tell us we’d see a money scandal? Never? Check your calendars folks, it the Neverth of June.
Do they cure your ethics in rehab, too?
Photograph: Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star