Ottawa (AFP) – Toronto’s embattled mayor Rob Ford refused once more to resign Thursday, even after the Canadian city’s police chief revealed that investigators have a video reportedly showing him smoking crack.
“The mayor does appear in that video,” Chief Bill Blair told a news conference, months after the mayor first denied illicit drug use. “As a citizen of Toronto I am disappointed.”
Ford refused to address the allegations in detail, but declared: “I have no reason to resign.”
The 90-second clip had caused an uproar after Canada’s largest newspaper, the Toronto Star, and U.S. gossip website Gawker reported its existence in May.
The Star said it had been approached by drug dealers looking to sell the video, allegedly shot using a cellphone by a person who claimed to have supplied Ford with the drug.
The paper said it viewed the video but declined to pay for it.
Gawker had also said that it had seen the footage, which reportedly showed a man resembling Ford lolling back in a chair in a room, inhaling from what appeared to be a glass crack pipe.
But later, after raising more than $200,000 in an online campaign to enable it to buy the video, Gawker said it was told by its unnamed source that the video was “gone.”
Blair said police technicians had recovered the video and other data from a hard drive seized mid-June, after it had been deleted.
“That file contains video images which appear to be those images which were previously reported in the press,” he said, adding that the video did not appear to have been doctored.
Ford’s longtime friend and occasional driver, Alexander Sandro Lisi, who already faces drug charges, was again arrested and charged with extortion in the case.
It was not made clear who was the target of the alleged extortion.
In a statement, police accused Lisi of making “extortive efforts to retrieve a recording.” The Star has reported that Lisi was involved in attempts to recover the video.
Blair said Ford has not been interviewed by police.
He added that criminal charges against Ford were not warranted based on the video, but noted that prosecutors may lay more charges in the case.
Heavily-redacted court documents released earlier detailed months of police surveillance of Ford meeting with Lisi at gas stations, a city park, football fields and outside Lisi’s home, which is just around the corner from apartments targeted by police in a drug raid.
Authorities used cameras mounted on telephone poles, tracking devices on cars, listening devices and even a small airplane flying low over the Toronto suburb where Ford lives.
They also detailed how Lisi in the hours after news first broke about the video called an alleged gang member and the resident of a notorious drug house where the video was purportedly shot.
Ford initially dismissed drug use allegations as “ridiculous,” but his refusal to explain himself fully fueled speculation, as he jousted with journalists — calling them “maggots” — and assailed his critics.
At one point, Ford even suggested that the video had never existed.
The controversy led to six of Ford’s key staffers, including his chief of staff, leaving the mayor’s office suddenly in the spring.
The premier of Ontario at one point warned that she might remove Ford from office, while allies including Canada’s finance minister appeared to distance themselves from Ford, despite coveting his so-called “Ford Nation” of supporters based in Toronto’s suburbs.
As Ford left his home for work in the morning, he pushed back a crush of journalists waiting at the edge of his driveway.
At city hall, he made a brief statement: “I think everybody has seen the allegations against me today. I wish I could come out and defend myself. Unfortunately I can’t because it’s before the courts.”
“I’ll be out doing what the people elected me to do and that’s save the taxpayers money and run the great government I have been running the past three years. That’s all I can say,” he said.
Copyright 2013 The National Memo