A week after he spoke out against Rob Ford's transit plans, Gary Webster's days as the manager of the TTC appear to be numbered.
According to a public notice posted by the TTC late Friday afternoon, a majority of commissioners on the TTC board have signed a petition to convene a special meeting next Tuesday "to consider a personnel matter." According to several City Hall sources, the meeting has been called to fire Webster, who has worked for the commission in one position or another for 35 years.
The petition (below) was signed by five commissioners on the nine-member board, all of them close Ford allies-Councillors Norm Kelly, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Frank Di Giorgio, Cesar Palacio, and Vincent Crisanti. A majority vote by the board is all that's required to fire the TTC manager, and council's approval is not needed.
"This is a vendetta against staff who don't agree with the mayor's ideologically rigid position," says Councillor Joe Mihevc told NOW in a brief interview at his City Hall office Friday afternoon.
"Gary Webster is going to go down as one of the brave people around here. He's a civil servant to be emulated, not to be hung out to dry. This is unethical."
The move against Webster appears to have been orchestrated without the consent of TTC chair Karen Stintz and vice-chair Peter Milczyn, both of whom have publicly backed him in the past. Staff in Milczyn's office say he was not approached to sign the petition, and Stintz is away on vacation.
The remaining commissioners, Councillors John Parker and Maria Augimeri, also say they were not approached or given notice of the meeting. They have both gone on record to say Webster has their support.
Webster's departure had been rumoured for months because of his failure to unequivocally back Ford's campaign promise to build an underground rail line on Eglinton and extend the Sheppard subway line. At the special council session last week that revived the surface rail plan Ford opposes, Webster made several public statements that contradicted the mayor, including recommending against burying the entire Eglinton line.
Augimeri warns that Webster's dismissal would complicate delivery of the light rail plan council approved last week.
"It's very bad news for the people of Toronto, especially TTC riders," she says. "Every major metropolis on the planet is going towards surface trains to get people moving, and this is an administration that's hell bent on driving us backward. I don't understand it."
Getting rid of Webster could also be costly. Augimeri estimates that terminating his contract would set the city back $1 million. Others peg the number closer to $500,000.