Ford Acknowledges ‘Corruption’ Comment

Testifies he meant process wasn’t followed

By Robyn Doolittle
Toronto Star, November 17, 2012

Mayor Rob Ford started off strong, blocking attempts by the plaintiff’s lawyer to connect vague comments Ford made about corruption and a sole-sourced deal to the company itself, Tuggs Inc.

But then it fell apart.

By the time Ford left Superior Court on Friday, the mayor had testified that, yes, when he told the Toronto Sun’s editorial board in August 2010 that “If Tuggs isn’t, I don’t know what is,” he meant it was an example of “corruption and skullduggery.”

In his mind, though, corruption meant the proper “process” wasn’t followed. Ford testified that the contract signed between the city and Tuggs Inc. “was a dirty deal” and that he believed there was “money exchanging hands” – although he had no proof, just lots of rumours.

The fact that Foulidis, members of Foulidis’s family and his friends – including a kitchen staffer – had collectively donated as much as $8,000 to a friendly city councillor’s re-election campaign didn’t “smell” right, Ford said.

He emphasized that, for him, “corruption” means the proper “process” hasn’t been followed.

The climax of Ford’s four hours on the stand came in the final minutes: Was he accusing Tuggs Inc. of corruption?

“The deal in general,” Ford replied.

“So you were accusing Tuggs?” lawyer Brian Shiller asked.

“Maybe it takes two to tango. Maybe it was staff that is to blame, I’m not quite sure,” Ford said.

Restaurateur George Foulidis, whose family owns Tuggs Inc., which runs the Boardwalk Pub in the Beach, sued Ford for $6 million two years ago after the then mayoral candidate refused to apologize for suggesting his company is corrupt. In the August, 2010 Sun article that prompted the lawsuit, Ford was paraphrased as saying the sole-sourced contract with Tuggs Inc. – which was approved by city council against the advice of staff – smacks of civic corruption.

Ford’s lawyer, Gavin Tighe, has argued these were the reporter’s words, not Ford’s, and that the mayor cannot be held responsible for the writing of the story.

Speaking generally, lawyer Julian Porter, one of the country’s leading libel experts, says courts take the word “corrupt” very seriously, so if Ford’s team has tried to avoid that connection it was with good reason.

But what happened on Friday doesn’t necessarily mean Judge John Macdonald will side with Foulidis. The Supreme Court has given politicians wide latitude to “ventilate” issues of public importance.

“The judge may find that the word is too strong, but (Ford) still has the defence. It’s up to the judge to decide whether he’s ventilated for an appropriate reason and in relatively appropriate language,” said Porter.

Also at court on Friday, the so-called missing recording of the Sun editorial meeting – which resulted in the story that sparked Foulidis’s lawsuit – was finally played.

The recording clears up the debated context in which Ford discusses “corruption” and what role Foulidis played in the interview. An excerpt was aired in court.

In the recording, Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy tells Ford there are “a number of things being rammed through at the next City Council meeting, um, you know, you know I’ve written about the Foulidis contract.” If Ford is elected, she asks, “Is it possible for you to undo any of this stuff, after the fact?”

Ford, “Absolutely. Absolutely it is. Let me ask you one question. How did David Miller get elected?”

Ford then talks about the bridge to the island airport, which was a key campaign issue for Miller.

Ford: “And so, he said that you can undo anything that’s been done.”

Levy: “The Foulidis deal?”

Ford: “Wha … On the Tuggs?”

Levy: “Yes.”

Ford: “Absolutely. It’s in camera, obviously, its confidential, I wish that you guys knew what happened in camera – which a lot of you do, obviously – but these in camera meetings, there’s more corruption and skullduggery going on in there than I’ve ever seen in my life. And … and if Tuggs isn’t, I don’t know what is. I can’t accuse anyone, or I can’t pinpoint it, but why do we have to go in camera on a Tuggs deal?”

Closing arguments begin Monday.