News / Toronto

More staff leave Mayor Rob Ford's office

Chaos gripping Mayor Rob Ford’s office is continuing with the resignation of two more staffers, bringing to five the number who have quit or were fired in a week.

Brian Johnston, Ford’s advisor on council relations, was walked down a second-floor stairwell and out of city hall by security in the latest evidence of chaos gripping the office of the mayor of Canada’s biggest city.

Ford’s executive assistant, Kia Nejatian, also quit early Thursday morning.

That brings to five the number of staff who have walked out or been fired from Ford’s office in a week. His office now has only 12 employees; many councillors believed it was too lean even when it still had 17.

Councillor Frank Di Giorgio, Ford’s budget chief, urged Ford to hire “a minimum” of six more employees, “if not more”: “Hopefully not just young people, but some experienced people.” But he said he suspects the cost-conscious Ford might not do so.

“Knowing the mayor the way I do, I wouldn’t be surprised if, for two leaving, he brings back one. So how many have we had leaving, five? We might be lucky to get three, in total, to replace the five,” Di Giorgio said.

“I’m hoping that he – not necessarily abandon that, but certainly become a little more flexible. Because he does have the budgetary space; I don’t want to see costs go up, but he does have some leeway there to have some more staff, and he would be well-advised to bring in some more staff.”

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The latest news prompted Premier Kathleen Wynne to say she’s “worried” and won’t rule out the unprecedented move of stepping in to bring stability to Canada’s biggest city.

“The mayor needs to deal with his personal issues,” Wynne said, adding she “will take action if and when it's appropriate . . . There are actions that we can take and actions that we cannot.”

At city hall, the mayor, his brother Councillor Doug Ford and security officers entered the glass-walled staff office on city hall’s second floor around 1 p.m. They stayed there for a long time, with various people entering and leaving an office, before Johnston emerged.

He walked out the back door alone but a security guard joined him in the hallway and walked him to the stairwell.

As Johnston was walking out through the underground parking lot, Johnston told reporters: “I chose to leave on my own terms . . . The timing was right for me,” and there are other things that he would like to move on to.

Asked if Ford can recover from the scandal, Johnston said: “He’s recovered from a lot of things already.” Asked if Ford can survive this, Johnston said: “Anything is possible.”

TTC Chair Karen Stintz said of Johnston: “Brian was a consummate professional, well-read and prepared. An asset to council.”

The parade out the mayor’s door began with Mark Towhey, Ford’s chief of staff, longtime right-hand man and policy guru, who was fired and marched out security last Thursday.

Then on Monday Ford’s two spokespeople, George Christopoulos and Isaac Ransom, tendered their resignations and slipped out before they could be marched out by security.

Towhey tweeted Thursday afternoon: “Kia @kianejatian and Brian @BJohnston42 are both exceptional young pros with great integrity. I was privileged to work with both of them.”

Towhey, Ford’s former longtime right-hand man and policy guru, sent similar messages of support to Christopoulos and Ransom when they quit.

Towhey sent similar messages of support to Christopoulos and Ransom when they followed him out the door.

The two latest departures come on the day that the Star reported that sources said Ford told senior aides in a meeting not to worry about a video appearing to show him smoking crack cocaine because he knew where it was.

Ford then blurted out the address of two 17th-floor units — 1701 and 1703 — at a Dixon Rd. apartment complex, to the shock of staffers at a city hall meeting almost two weeks ago, the sources said.

The mayor cited “our contacts” as the source of his information, according to insiders familiar with the unusual May 17 session in his office.

Staffers were alarmed by the implication of hearing so precise a location, sources said.

Earlier Thursday at city hall, councillors accused Ford of “waffling”, being “evasive” and even calling for him to resign as he refuses to fully discuss crack video allegations.

“He’s the chief magistrate — the ducking and weaving and waffling just won’t work around here,” said Councillor James Pasternak, a former Ford ally.

“Clearly it’s a distraction, it’s damaging, it’s knocking us off our message. We need a full-time mayor who is focused on city building and building a better community . . . and these are just allegations.

“They’re unproven but they have legs and that’s damaging . . . The longer it lasts the more destructive it becomes and it’s not healthy for the city.”

Centrist Councillor Josh Matlow tweeted: “Toronto needs a new mayor.”

Councillor John Parker, a conservative voice of calm on council, accused Ford of being “evasive” and grew emotional talking about how Toronto needs leadership. Parker praised heartfelt words he had heard from hockey hero Paul Henderson at a morning prayer service.

Ford’s current staff has little expertise in policy. The 12 employees include three recent hires: JC Hasko, a 21-year-old Don Bosco Eagles assistant football coach and a personal trainer; Brendan Croskerry, a 27-year-old singer-songwriter with marketing experience; and Ford friend and former businessman David Price.

Special assistant Tom Beyer has been the mayor’s receptionist and the manager of his Twitter account. Amin Massoudi, a communications assistant appointed Monday, is a young Queen’s University graduate who had been Councillor Doug Ford’s executive assistant. Chris Fickel, another young aide and now acting executive assistant to the chief of staff, has done constituency work and helped the mayor run his football teams. Carley McNeil is an event coordinator. Michael Prempeh, a special assistant, is also a recent university graduate.

Earl Provost, a veteran, is acting chief of staff. Ford also has a senior policy advisor, Sheila Paxton, who had worked for Councillor Mark Grimes; a policy advisor and council relations official, Brooks Barnett; and an acting press secretary, Sunny Petrujkic, who has been his chief liaison to council.

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