Mayor John Tory responds to a police report clearing the city of widespread corruption, rejecting the suggestions of Toronto’s ousted police chief that the probe was plagued by a rush to the finishing line.
The report by a special adviser, retired Supreme Court justice William Armstrong, said “no overall conspiracy” existed at the Toronto Police Service over allegations the department had covered up payoffs to Mayor John Tory and other city officials for political favour.
Tory says he is “extremely disappointed” with the report, but his office nevertheless “decided to accept it with the full weight of humility and regret.”
“For years, we’ve been assured that there was no sinister end game for the Armstrong report, a conclusion that no responsible person would ever reach,” Tory said.
But the retired judge’s “formulaic” approach could have been avoided had he imposed time limits on his investigation, while Premier Doug Ford blames the mayor for making the public inquiry “a media sideshow,” firing the chief and forcing his hand into his police report.
Municipal Affairs Minister Mike Genest called it a “farce” for the mayor to claim there was no impropriety, while urging the federal Liberals to pardon Rob Ford, the late mayor’s twin brother, over cocaine and alcohol abuse.
Tory said he has confidence in Toronto’s deputy police chief, Jennifer Evans, but she will step down when a new chief is named — the mayor’s preference is Matthew Blair.
Jim Feeny, the director of compliance and investigation at the police service, said the inquiry was “an investigation of a particular moment in time,” and suggested it was “misplaced” to blame Evans for covering up a perceived violation of the police service’s code of conduct by Blair.
“This is not a situation of being the innocent bystander. You can’t use it as a shield,” he said in an interview.
Ford agreed. “People knew it was a bad fish but he went around smelling salts, making it seem better,” the premier said of Blair.
The mayor also dismisses the report as an “account of non-events,” while Ford said that while the findings are “disappointing,” “it would be even more disappointing if we didn’t find the holes in it.”
The justice says he took into account “substantial financial compensation” paid to Tory’s deputy chief of staff, Mark Towhey, and his deputy chief of staff in 2014 — about $87,000 each — for work that was never done, and improperly labelled as expenses.
But he said neither was ever alleged to have received any illegal payments, and pointed out the payments cannot be held against Towhey and his deputy chief of staff.
Tory said Towhey retired and left the police service voluntarily, while ignoring an opportunity to be a witness — despite the value of his “service to the city for decades.”
Genest, however, said if the testimony from former Tory aide and council candidate Sam Oosterhoff was accurate, it “demonstrates significant bias” on the part of Oosterhoff and others.
Oosterhoff, who ended up pleading guilty to breach of trust and receiving a suspended sentence, said Friday that the alleged payoffs were “lawful” and he never received more than $10,000.
But the mayor says the cash matters are not a problem because any attempt to take money for personal gain would be illegal.
Tory defends the decision not to ask the provincial police force for assistance, saying he only took the “large exception” to the force’s conduct when the special adviser’s report became public, and that it was “no secret to anyone that the CDP had felt pressure from a single source,” the city’s then-acting chief, Mark Saunders.
But when he did ask the province, he found they needed more help.
In response to the report, Ford said there “clearly were no serious allegations” against Blair in the police report, but he added that it would be up to his government to decide who the new chief would be.