Press aides of Toronto mayor Rob Ford quit as he faces 'crack video' row
Two top aides have quit Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's office as the embattled leader of Canada's biggest city faces lingering allegations he was caught smoking crack cocaine on video, accusations he has firmly denied.
The departures of the mayor's press secretary and deputy press secretary on Monday came just days after Ford fired his chief of staff. Ford confirmed on Monday that George Christopoulos and Isaac Ransom left of their own accord.
"I wish them the best of luck in their future endeavours and I want to thank them for working hard in this office," he said. "That's it, it's business as usual."
Christopoulos and Ransom could not be reached for comment. But their departures renewed questions about whether Ford would be able to weather his most serious controversy to date.
He has been under fire since reporters from the Toronto Star and Gawker Media said in separate reports on May 16 that they had seen a video that purports to show Ford smoking crack. The mayor directly denied the allegations on Friday, after initially dismissing the media stories as "ridiculous", without giving a full statement.
The video, according to The Star and Gawker, was being shopped around by people involved in the drug trade. Both media outlets declined to pay the six-figure sum requested by the video's owners, but Gawker later launched a fundraising campaign to do so.
The campaign hit its US$200,000 target on Monday. However, Gawker's editor said he had recently been unable to contact those in possession of the video.
Speaking on his weekly radio show on Sunday, Ford brushed off the scandal, calling the media a "bunch of maggots", and promised to run in the next election.
While some of Ford's opponents have called for him to step down, a municipal affairs specialist said there was little that could be done under the current system to force a Toronto mayor from office.
"There is no recall or impeachment provision," said John Mascarin, a lawyer with Aird & Berlis. "Stupidity is not one of the things" that can get you removed.
Elected officials can be removed from City Hall by court order in a conflict-of-interest situation, or if they do not attend council meetings for several months without being formally excused.