The frosty relationship between Karen Stintz and Rob Ford was on display Wednesday, when the TTC chair crashed a press conference in the mayor's office, claiming he refused to return a voicemail she left for him last week.
The unusual scene unfolded around 5 pm, after Mayor Ford's staff alerted reporters that he would soon be giving a rare unscheduled media availability.
As reporters gathered outside his office on the second floor of City Hall, Councillor Stintz joined them. The group was then let inside, and as they stood waiting for Ford to come out from an inner office, one of the mayor's aides approached the councillor and asked why she was there.
"I just want to hear what mayor has to say," Stintz replied. "I don't hear from the mayor directly."
Ford then came out and fielded several questions while Stintz looked on, before his press secretary ushered him away. The scrum was over in less than three minutes. The mayor and the councillor did not speak to one another.
Ford and Stintz have been at odds since last February when she led the council revolt that derailed his Sheppard subway plan. But in recent days, the pair have traded barbs through the media about a sole-sourced contract the TTC board gave to Tobmar Inc. to operate the transit system's Gateway Newstands.
On his radio show on Sunday, the mayor promised to "look into" the $50-million, 15-year deal, which he described as "an embarrassment."
Last week Stintz defended the contract, telling reporters that Ford never raised any objections when she briefed his office about it last year. She has since bowed to public pressure and requested a third-party review of the deal, but she maintains that Ford has yet to contact her to discuss it.
During his brief scrum Wednesday, Ford claimed he called the TTC chair about the contract last week, but she didn't answer.
"If you want to see my cell phone, I can show you my cell phone," he told reporters.
"I'm not going to get in the weeds. I called her... And uh, cell phones don't lie, and I'd be more than happy to show you that I called her, left her a message. And that's it, we'll take it from there."
The mayor did not show reporters his phone.
Stintz acknowledged that Ford returned a message she left for him on Monday, January 21, the day the deal was approved by the TTC board. According to her, Ford called her back the following night but she couldn't pick up because she was taking part in a public forum about "failed leadership" in Toronto city government.
She said that she called Ford a second time the following day and left him a voicemail, but she never heard back.
Asked if she and Ford have a dysfunctional relationship, Stintz, who many believe will run against the mayor in the 2014 election, was diplomatic.
"I think there's just ways to build a better relationship," she said. "And I think a better relationship is built when there's open communication, [when] if there's a disagreement or an issue, we talk about it and we maybe have a meeting, as opposed to discussing it on the radio."