Rob Ford magnets, like this one seen at city council on April 4, ended up on dozens of cars at an Etobicoke meeting on Tuesday. Photo by Ben Spurr.
It's not exactly the biggest legal battle of his life, but Mayor Rob Ford - who has already faced a libel charge, conflict of interest case, and campaign audit this term - is under investigation for putting magnets on people's cars.
Someone lodged a complaint with city licensing officials Wednesday after Ford ducked out of an Etobicoke community council meeting the day before to slap promotional magnets on vehicles in the parking lot.
Ford was at the Church on the Queensway for a debate on a proposed condominium development at Humbertown Mall, but briefly left the proceedings to distribute the magnets. They carry the words "Rob Ford Mayor" and list his home phone number on them.
Tammy Robbinson, a spokesperson for the city's licensing and standards division, confirms that the department has opened a file on the mayor. But she stresses that that doesn't necessarily mean Ford has run afoul of any city bylaw.
"Whenever there's a complaint launched from a resident that could possibly violate a bylaw then we investigate it," Robbinson says. "Because we have not investigated yet, we don't know if anything has been violated. So what we're doing is following our normal procedure... and then we'll take appropriate action at that point."
Robbinson won't name the complainant, saying only that it was a Toronto resident. She is unsure whether the person actually had their car tagged Tuesday, or had simply seen video footage of the mayor's magnet spree, which was widely circulated online Wednesday.
The complaint cites section 545-313 of the Toronto Municipal Code, "Depositing handbills on vehicles and handing handbills prohibited."
The section bars anyone "in the pursuance of a trade, business, or occupation" from distributing "any handbill, circular, or other paper... in or upon motor vehicles parked or standing in any public place."
According to Richard Mucha, director of licensing for the city, if Ford is found to have broken the bylaw, he could be hit with a certificate of offence, fines for which range from $100 to $150 (the maximum fine for individuals is $25,000, but that seems unlikely).
The licensing division also has the discretion of imposing a lesser punishment, including a warning.
The mayor's office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Update (6:41 pm): The mayor's office has responded to NOW's request for comment. In an email, the mayor's press secretary asserted that Ford did nothing wrong.
"There is no law prohibiting the Mayor from handing out magnets or providing residents with a number to contact him," wrote George Christoupolos. "As part of a long-standing practice, the Mayor hands out business cards and magnets with his home phone number to just about everybody he meets. The Mayor believes that he should be accessible to the public, as part of his mandate to provide excellent customer service."