September 19, 2012
Controversy follows Rob Ford to Chicago
By Don Peat, QMI Agency
CHICAGO - Mayor Rob Ford may have left Toronto but he couldn’t shake controversy Tuesday.
Ford toured Chicago’s Millennium Park to kickoff the start of his two-day Team Toronto Business Mission but ended up shouting down questions about taxpayer-funds being used to help the high school football team he coaches.
And during a friendly chat with Chicago residents, he ended up mistakenly saying Manitoba was across from Detroit — rather than Windsor.
The mayor has spent the last week refusing to talk to reporters about allegations he used taxpayer-funded staff and resources for the youth football teams he coaches.
During a photo opportunity beside Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate, Ford at first ignored a question from a reporter who asked why Chris Fickel, a mayor’s office employee, drove a City of Toronto vehicle to a football practice Tuesday for the Don Bosco Eagles — the team the mayor coaches.
Asked a second time, Ford finally responded:
“A car that I paid for right?” Ford said. “Do your homework. I paid for it last year.”
George Christopoulos, Ford’s press secretary, then jumped in to cut off the questions.
“Thanks guys, the photo op is over,” he said.
Ford ignored follow-up questions asking him to clarify if he is misusing city funds.
“Am I going to be sleeping with you ... tonight?” Ford asked a reporter while laughing. On his Sunday radio show, Ford said he expects to roll over in bed and find a reporter spying on him.
The reporter replied, “I hope not.”
“I hope not too. Go home,” Ford said. “Holy smokes.”
“How does this create jobs?”
Ford eventually walked away from reporters surrounded by his staff.
Christopoulos later clarified the mayor’s office budget was charged $2,706.14 for use of a city vehicle in 2011.
“The mayor has never believed taxpayers should pay for all political office expenses,” he said. “In 2011, he wrote a cheque for $4,000 to cover the cost of business cards, stationery, newspapers and car expenses.”
According to city records, Ford paid $1,078.92 towards the cost of the car in 2011. This year he has yet to reimburse the city for any costs for the taxpayer-funded vehicle.
Tuesday’s photo opportunity started out well enough with Ford marveling at the stainless steel, bean-shaped Cloud Gate sculpture and suggesting Toronto should have something similar, perhaps shaped like a football.
“This is really cool,” he told reporters.
Acting like he was in full election mode, Ford greeted tourists and Chicago residents in the park and handed out his business card.
When he asked one girl where in Canada she had visited, she said “the part where you go past Detroit and the river.”
“Oh, Manitoba,” Ford said. “Oh, you were in Manitoba and Winnipeg?”
Someone corrected him by pointing out Windsor is the Canadian city beside Detroit.
Another man sang the praises of Toronto to the mayor.
“We love your town. My wife and I have been there 30, 40 times,” he told Ford.
“It’s like Chicago, it’s a great walking town.”