Rob Ford's questionable use of office staff to help him coach football has landed him in hot water with the integrity commissioner.
Thursday morning a Toronto resident named Jude MacDonald filed a formal complaint with the commissioner, through the city clerk's office, alleging that the mayor violated council's code of conduct by using city resources to help him coach three Etobicoke youth football teams.
"He's using staff time and he's using his business cards and he's using his office and he's using office cellphones and he's using what I would call standard office time," MacDonald said in an interview Thursday.
"It just seems striking to me that there's this repeat [violation] of what I think is a fairly basic tenet."
While the complaint has not been made public, MacDonald said that in it she argues there are grounds for the commissioner to find Ford broke Article VI of the code, which states that "No member of Council should use, or permit the use of City land, facilities, equipment, supplies, services, staff or other resources... for activities other than the business of the Corporation [of the City of Toronto]."
Earlier this week it was reported that two of the mayor's assistants, Chris Fickel and Isaac Shirokoff, were listed as contacts on a Facebook page for two of the teams. The numbers posted the page were of city-owned cellphones. Another report cited an anonymous former staffer who said Shirokoff, who has since left Ford's office, frequently used a city-owned car to ferry players to and from practices during work hours.
This is not the first time MacDonald, a founding editor of Rabble.ca and former volunteer for mayoral candidate Joe Pantalone, has been involved in a complaint against Ford. Last year she filed an application with the integrity commissioner claiming he didn't fully report his office expenses, but it didn't lead to any action being taken against the mayor.
At the request of Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, MacDonald also swore an affidavit at Ford's ongoing conflict of interest trial. Chaleff-Freudenthaler is the Toronto man who successfully sought an audit of Ford's campaign finances in 2011 and who first approached lawyer Clayton Ruby about bringing the conflict case against the mayor. MacDonald says Chaleff-Freudenthaler is a friend who she has known since he was 13 years old.
She also has ties to Ruby, who represented her in a complaint against an anti-wind power group earlier this year.
While her ties to Ford's well-known antagonists will give ammunition to critics who say her complaint is politically motivated, MacDonald asserts that neither Ruby nor Chaleff-Freudenthaler had anything to do with her latest application and that she is merely seeking to hold politicians accountable.
"I don't have an agenda, I'm not going to run for mayor in two years, I don't have someone I've picked to run for mayor," she said. "I'm interested in good government."
The mayor's office did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday, but Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday says he doesn't believe Ford has done anything wrong because the cellphones the assistants allegedly used are billed on a flat rate and the mayor reimburses the city for the cost of the staff car.
"If it had cost the taxpayers, I'd be the first one to say pay it back," he said. "But I don't think there is, in this instance, any cost to the taxpayer."
Even the mayor's harshest critics are showing fatigue with fielding questions about Ford's alleged improprieties.
"It just never seems to end," said Councillor Adam Vaughan, before cutting the interview short and ducking back into a committee meeting Thursday. "Quite frankly, I think we all understand what the transgressions are that have been spoken to. At some point, we have to get back to work. These distractions are beginning to pile up a little bit."
If the integrity commissioner finds that a complaint has merit she can first attempt to reach an informal solution between the two parties. If that's unsuccessful she has 90 days to issue her final report to both sides, after which the matter would go to the next city council meeting.
Councillors could then vote to impose sanctions, including a reprimand, ordering that any improperly used money be repaid, or docking the offending member's pay for up to 90 days.
The commissioner has found Ford in violation of the code of conduct four separate times since 2007, dating back to his days as a councillor. His decision to defend himself against one of those rulings by speaking at a February council meeting led to the current conflict of interest hearing, which could result in a judge removing him from office.