Rob Ford did know that George Foulidis was involved in a controversial sole-sourced deal between Tuggs Inc. and the city, and he did intend to tell the Toronto Sun that deal was corrupt.
Those are two key facts established at the mayor's libel hearing on Friday, where Ford took the stand for the first time during the four-day proceedings.
As expected, Ford's testimony centered around a recording of an interview he gave to the Toronto Sun editorial board in the summer of 2010, when he was an Etobicoke councillor running for mayor. It was in that interview that Foulidis alleges the mayor slandered him by suggesting the sole-sourced 20-year deal granting his company, Tuggs Inc., exclusive rights to operate the Boardwalk Café on city land in the Beaches, was criminal.
Foulidis is suing Ford for $6 million.
After playing an audio excerpt of the interview, Foulidis' lawyer, Brian Shiller, spent the morning trying to pin down the exact meaning the mayor's words in several key passages.
Before this morning, it was unclear whether when Ford spoke to Sun about "corruption and skullduggery" at City Hall, he was referring specifically to the Tuggs deal.
But after several attempts Friday, Shiller cornered Ford into admitting that when he told the Sun "If Tuggs isn't, then I don't know what is," he meant to say that he believed the deal was corrupt.
Shiller pressed Ford several times on the issue, and after the mayor repeatedly avoided answering several times, Justice John MacDonald advised him to respond.
Finally, Ford relented.
"The answer is yes to my question?" Shiller asked. "[You meant to say] ‘if Tuggs isn't an example of corruption and skullduggery...'"
"In my view, how it was operated and how it was dealt with, yes," answered Ford.
The admission is significant because Ford's defence so far has been that he was referring to institutional impropriety at City Hall, not to any particular deal or person.
But the mayor was clear that by "corruption" he didn't necessarily mean to suggest illegality, but rather a failure to follow proper city procedure. He noted that staff recommended against awarding Foulidis an untendered contract, but councillors voted to anyway.
"Not following the process, to me, is corrupt," Ford said.
Ford also conceded that he was aware that Geroge Foulidis was involved in the Tuggs deal, refuting his lawyer's assertion, made on the first day of trial, that there was no evidence that the mayor knew who Foulidis was.
Ford never mentioned the plaintiff by name in the Sun interview, but on the recording Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy can be heard asking him about "the Foulidis deal." He responds "What, on the Tuggs?"
During his examination Friday morning, Shiller put it to Ford that it couldn't have merely been a "lucky guess" that led him to connect Foulidis with Tuggs.
"You had heard the name before that day obviously," said Shiller.
"And you knew that it was associated in some way with Tuggs?"
"You hear the name, yeah," said Ford. "It's, I guess... not right off the top when you hear it. I didn't connect the two right off, that's why I questioned her when she mentioned his name."
Ford was back on the stand Friday afternoon. His testimony was expected to last at least until the end of the day.
Update: Ford has finished his testimony and the evidence portion of the trial has concluded. Final arguments will be given Monday.