Rob Ford srcums outside his office, May 27, 2013. Photo by Jonathan Goldsbie.
Rob Ford's dwindling list of allies at City Hall got even shorter on Monday, when two of his senior staffers abruptly quit.
The mayor's press secretary, George Christopoulos, and special communications assistant, Isaac Ransom, were seen packing up and leaving their office in the early afternoon.
Ford arrived at City Hall at about 1:40 p.m., and could be seen through the office's glass walls walking intently from room to room, looking irritated. At around 2:40 p.m., the mayor issued a press release confirming the two men were no longer on staff.
Less than an hour later, Ford held a rare scrum with the media at which he said the pair had decided to go "down a different avenue" and suggested that they left to pursue other career opportunities.
"I've always told anybody that's ever worked for me... if an opportunity comes up, go," he said. "Please, take advantage of it."
"I was informed about this at approximately twelve o'clock today, and I wish them the best of luck in their future endeavours, and I want to thank them for working hard in this office," he continued. "And that's it, it's business as usual. We have our executive committee tomorrow, and we're soldiering on."
Amin Massoudi, Councillor Doug Ford's former executive assistant, will take over as the mayor's communications director, effective immediately.
But despite Rob Ford's depiction of an amicable parting between himself and his senior aides, their departure comes amid growing signs of a crisis in his administration.
Ford has been under intense scrutiny since 11 days ago, when news broke of a video allegedly showing him smoking crack cocaine. Against commonly accepted public relations practice, instead of addressing the allegations head on, Ford went silent for more than a week and avoided the press at every turn.
On Thursday the mayor fired his chief of staff Mark Towhey, reportedly because Towhey had urged Ford to enter rehab. The incident left Ford's remaining staffers in a state of shock, according to one City Hall source.
In the wake of that dismissal, Christopoulos appeared to show solidarity with Towhey, sending out a tweet praising his former colleague. "@towhey it was an honour and privilege to work side by side with you. Best, always," it said.
Christopoulos and Ransom were both well-respected members of the mayor's staff, and were integral in shielding him from the escalating controversies that have plagued his term in office. Ford is now left with a skeleton crew to not only assist him in his official duties but also to guide him through the crack allegations, which are the most serious accusations levelled against him yet.
But Councillor Frank Di Giorgio, the mayor's budget chief, rejects the idea that the administration is imploding.
"No, not at all," he said, arguing that the three high-profile staff members who left were on the political side of the mayor's office, rather than the administrative side, and therefore weren't vital to running the city.
"There are other people that I'm sure that can fill the void," said Di Giorgio.
Since reports of the crack video surfaced, Ford's already frosty relationship with the press took a turn for the worse. On his radio show on Sunday he blasted the local media as a "bunch of maggots."
On Monday, the notoriously stubborn mayor apologized for the remark, which he attributed to the pressure brought on by the drug allegations.
"I'm sure you understand this has been very stressful for myself and my family, but that doesn't justify using the terminology I did to describe the media," he said. "So I sincerely apologize to each and every one of you. I understand you have a job to do. Words don't - it's been bothering me. A lot."
Meanwhile, shortly before 4 p.m., the U.S. website Gawker surpassed the $200,000 target in its crowdsourced campaign to purchase the video from the alleged drug dealer who shot it. On Thursday however Gawker editor John Cook revealed that he had lost contact with the man who claims to own the video.
Ford denies that he uses crack or is addicted to the drug, and said Sunday that the video does not exist.