After the office of alleged crack-smoking mayor Rob Ford made the very illegal order that some departed staff members' telephone and email records be erased, the tech support crew in Toronto's city hall appears to have staged a rebellion of sorts on Wednesday — just the kind of digital backlash Ford doesn't need any more of right now.
The Toronto Star's Daniel Dale and Kevin Donovan report someone tried to have electronic records belonging to three former staff members destroyed in connection with the most famous evidence of politician drug use the world has never seen, but someone else in the record-preserving business (you know, of legal government record keeping) refused to go through with the request. Ford Chief of Staff Mark Towhey and press aides George Christopoulos and Isaac Ransom either were fired or quit within the last week. The information in question would be held on the city's internal servers — and is subject to freedom of information requests, the Star helpfully points out — so it would almost have to be the city IT department that balked at the order. Don't mess with law abiding civil servant nerds.
So why did the mayor's office want the records destroyed? Per the Star:
One source the Star spoke to was alarmed at the potential loss of “evidence of attempts” to locate and retrieve a video of Ford smoking crack cocaine and making homophobic and racial slurs.
Towhey's emails would be of particular interest. It was reported earlier this week that the mayor's director of logistics David Price told Towhey he knew where they could find the video of Ford smoking crack cocaine. When Price asked what they should do with that knowledge, Towhey apparently told him to go to the police. Towhey ended up going to the police, with the information from Price, on his own. He was fired a few days later, reportedly over asking the mayor to check in to rehab.
But the mayor's office is denying the report. One source inside city hall told CBC's Jamie Strashin: "first off that's illegal and we'd never do that. Second we have nothing to hide." The Canadian press are awaiting a statement from the mayor's new acting press secretary, Sunny Petrujkic.
Ford is now facing pressure from other city council members to address these new allegations. When confronted about the report at a press conference ostensibly about flooding on Wednesday, Ford declined to answer any questions and abruptly left. He waited eight days to respond to the surfacing of the crack tape, and even then his denial wasn't convincing. Two days later he was calling the press "maggots" and denying the video exists, which ultimately led to Christopoulos and Ransom resigning. First it was word of the tape, and the murder connection, and the family history in the drug trade, and now this? The Ford family, and therefore Toronto, has a feast full of scandal in front of them. But can the city stomach it?