As more and more Torontonians wonder what it will take to force Rob Ford to resign, we look at the experiences of other beleaguered North American cities to gauge just how bad a mayor has to be before getting the boot.
The past week at Toronto’s City Hall has played out like an episode of The Wire and The Real World rolled into one. The embarrassment that Rob Ford’s antics have brought to the city of Toronto has resulted in numerous demands for the mayor to step down, but, let’s be honest—it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon.
Rob Ford, of course, is not the first mayor to receive calls for resignation. We took a look at some other scandal-plagued cities to see what it took to get their misbehaving mayors out of city hall and, in some cases, into a jail cell.
Who: Gérald Tremblay
Where: Montreal, QC
Reign of terror: 2002–2012
Highlights: Tremblay was elected amid rumours of cash-stuffed envelopes already floating about Montreal’s city hall. He avoided scandal his first few years in office, but it wasn’t long before those rumours became front-page news.
Fall from grace: Tremblay resigned once a former colleague testified against him during the Charbonneau Commission. Tremblay was accused of turning a blind eye to corruption, including under-the-table business with mafia-linked companies. It seems that Tremblay was never the one to do the dirty work himself, but the fact that he knew what was going on was enough to force him out of office.
Bad-mayor rating (out of 10): 3
Who: Gilles Vaillancourt
Where: Laval, QC
Reign of terror: 1989–2012
Highlights: Vaillancourt was mayor for a whopping 23 years, and is credited with helping develop the sleepy Montreal suburb into an urban centre of its own.
Fall from grace: Another victim of the Charbonneau Commission, Vaillancourt resigned when it was alleged he received a 2.5 per cent kickback for every construction contract awarded to mafia-linked companies. A few months later, Vaillancourt was arrested and charged with conspiracy, fraud, and gangsterism, just to name a few. Vaillancourt maintains his innocence.
Bad mayor rating (out of 10): 6
Who: Bob Filner
Where: San Diego, CA
Reign of terror: Dec. 2012–Aug. 2013
Highlights: Filner was a member of the House of Representatives before he was elected as San Diego’s first Democrat mayor in 2o years.
Fall from grace: Filner resigned after less than a year in office amid allegations of sexual harassment. All nine city council members, including fellow Democrats, called on Filner to resign. Nineteen women eventually came forward alleging various levels of harassment. Filner maintained his innocence, and claimed he was the victim of a lynch mob. He defended his actions by saying the women mistook his attempts to establish personal relationships as sexual harassment. (Seriously.) Filner eventually pleaded guilty to false-imprisonment and battery charges.
Bad mayor rating (out of 10): 8
Who: Buddy Cianci
Where: Providence, RI
Reign of terror: Cianci served two separate terms—1975–1984, then 1991–2002
Highlights: Despite a career filled with controversies, Cianci was popular among voters, holding office for a total of 20 years. He was well known for the toupee he always wore, nicknamed “the squirrel.”
Fall from grace: In 1984, Cianci was forced to resign after pleading no contest to assault charges, after he was accused of attacking a man he suspected of having an affair with his wife. After six years away from politics, Cianci successfully ran for mayor again. After 11 years in office, he was convicted of racketeering, and served four years in prison.
Bad mayor rating (out of 10): 9
Who: Kwame M. Kilpatrick
Where: Detroit, MI
Reign of terror: 2002-2008
Highlights: Kilpatrick was elected to revitalize a city in serious trouble, but many say he accelerated the city’s decline to bankruptcy.
Fall from grace: Kilpatrick resigned in 2008 after getting caught lying under oath, and approving a multi-million dollar settlement to cover it up. Those allegations seemed pretty tame when Kilpatrick was later convicted of racketeering, conspiracy, fraud, extortion, and tax crimes. Last month, Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Bad mayor rating (out of 10): 10