News / Toronto

Key members of Mayor Rob Ford's staff mentioned in search warrant

But for those working at city hall, some of the most troubling revelations concerned the extent to which Mayor Rob Ford's staff interacted with Sandro Lisi.

Rob Ford’s former chief of staff, Mark Towhey, told Toronto police detectives he suspected Sandro Lisi — a friend of the mayor’s who occasionally acted as his driver — was a drug dealer.

Towhey was interviewed by Det. Sgt. Gary Giroux and Det. Joyce Schertzer as part of a sweeping drug trafficking investigation, which targeted the Mayor of Toronto.

The probe, dubbed Project Brazen 2, was launched after the Toronto Star reported on May 16 that two of its reporters had viewed video footage of the mayor smoking what looked like crack cocaine.

On Thursday morning, hundreds of search warrant documents prepared as part of that investigation were released on the orders of Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer. The pages reveal police surveillance teams were actively watching Ford and his associates, particularly Lisi, who earlier this month was arrested for drug offences as part of Project Brazen 2. The documents describe numerous clandestine meetings between Ford and Lisi, including a handoff of a manila envelope at a gas station near the mayor’s home.

None of the allegations in the document have been proven in court.

But for those working at city hall, some of the most troubling revelations were the extent to which Ford’s staff interacted with Lisi.

“Obviously it’s highly inappropriate, said centrist councillor Josh Colle, “but you start to worry about the safety of a pretty young group of people in that office who are being exposed to questionable characters. You’d hate to think they’re being put in a situation that’s not safe.”

Towhey was among half a dozen members of Ford's staff referenced in the search warrant. They also include two young special assistants, hired not long after finishing school. Both Chris Fickel and Xhejsi “J.C.” Hasko were found to have dealt with Lisi by telephone.

Fickel spoke to detectives on June 28, two days after he resigned from his position in the mayor’s office. According to the documents, Fickel told investigators he believed Lisi was a drug dealer and that as part of his duties within the mayor’s office, he was sometimes ordered to track Lisi down because the mayor needed to speak with him.

Fickel said the mayor and Lisi “were together a lot” up until the Toronto Star reported on the video.

He also said he has never seen the mayor use drugs, but he “has heard that ‘Sandro’ may be the person who provides the mayor with marijuana and possibly cocaine.”

The pair of special assistants weren’t the only ones dealing with Lisi.

On June 15, police detectives watched as Lisi and the mayor’s executive assistant, Tom Beyer, met at a plaza on Royal York Rd. and Trehorne Dr. — which is at the end of the street of Ford’s childhood home.

“Lisi walked and talked with Beyer. Both eventually boarded Beyer’s vehicle and they drove a short distance in the lot to Lisi’s vehicle. After a brief moment, Lisi exited Beyer’s vehicle.”

The documents note more than 30 phone calls between Beyer and Lisi in May and June.

Both Towhey and David Price — a high school friend of the Ford brothers who joined the office shortly after the Torstar News Service reported the mayor had been asked to leave the Garrison military ball after showing up impaired — were interviewed by detectives as part of Project Brazen 2.

Price, Ford’s director of logistics and operations, told police he didn’t know what Lisi did for a living, only that he was friends with the mayor and sometimes drove him around, including the night of the Garrison Ball.

Towhey, who was fired on May 23 after sources say he urged the mayor to go to rehab in the wake of the video scandal, said he believed the mayor was spending time near Lisi’s home before the military gala.

“Towhey had suspicions that Sandro was a drug dealer,” the search warrant document alleges.

Current chief of staff Earl Provost was referenced in connection to an incident in which Ford believed he was being followed: On Aug. 22, Sheila Paxton — a member of Ford’s staff — called police on the mayor’s behalf and passed along a licence plate Ford had spotted on suspicious vehicle behind him.

A police detective offered to file a report and Paxton said Ford would be in touch. The mayor never called. The next day, Provost phoned asking for an update. He wanted to get the vehicle’s registration information — something police were not prepared to share.

“Provost further advised that Mayor Ford is getting angry at Provost because he can’t give him what he wants,” the document said. It continued: “I believe that the above attempts by Provost to obtain registration details for Mayor Ford clearly indicate that Mayor Ford is utilizing his position and the powers of the Office of the Mayor, to obtain information not available to regular citizens.”

Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Provost refused to talk.

“I have no comment to make and I know you’re going to make this public and that’s fine. Goodbye.”

Towhey did not respond to a request for comment. Emails and voicemail messages delivered to Beyer, Price, Paxton, and Hasko were not returned.

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