TORONTO (AP) — Beset by scandal, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford faces another likely setback Monday as the City Council takes up a motion to strip him of most of his remaining powers.
Under the motion, already endorsed by a majority of council members, Ford would in effect become mayor of Canada’s largest city in name only.
The council does not have the power to remove Ford from office, barring a criminal conviction. It is pursuing the strongest recourse available after recent revelations that Ford smoked crack cocaine and his repeated outbursts of erratic behavior.
Far from being chastened, Ford has vowed to take the council to court and insists he will seek re-election next year.
On Sunday, he embraced the spotlight, giving an interview to Fox News and showing up at a Toronto Argonauts game even though the commissioner of the Canadian Football League had suggested that he not attend.
Toronto, a city of 2.7 million people, has been abuzz with the Ford melodrama since May, when news outlets reported that he had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine.
Recently released court documents show the mayor became the subject of a police investigation after those reports surfaced. Ford, who initially denied there was any incriminating video, now acknowledges the reports were accurate.
In interviews with police, former Ford staffers have made further accusations, saying the mayor drank heavily, sometimes drove while intoxicated and pressured a female staffer to engage in oral sex.
On Thursday, Ford spouted an obscenity on live television while denying the sex allegation, saying he was “happily married” and using crude language to assert that he enjoys enough oral sex at home.
Last week, after admitting to excessive drinking and buying illegal drugs, Ford disclosed that he is seeking medical help. But he and his family insist he is not an addict and does not need rehab.
The mayor addressed some of those issues in his interview with Fox News.
“I’ve admitted to drinking too much. Okay. So I’m dealing with it, I’m training every day, I’m in the gym two hours every day,” Ford said. “I’m seeking professional help, I’m not an alcoholic, I’m not a drug addict. Have I had my outbursts in the past? Absolutely. But you know what, I’m only human. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve apologized.”
With Ford refusing to step aside, even temporarily, the City Council took its first steps to weaken his powers on Friday, voting 39-3 to suspend his authority to appoint and dismiss the deputy mayor and the executive committee. The council also voted to give the deputy mayor authority to handle any civic emergency.
Ford’s lawyer, Dennis Morris, accused the council of attempting an illegal “coup” and said a municipal law expert has been hired to challenge it.
Ford’s brother and adviser, councilman Doug Ford, called him “the mayor of the people” and said the rights of those who voted for him were being trampled.
Ford, 44, was elected three years ago with overwhelming support from Toronto’s conservative-leaning outer suburbs, where many voters felt angry about what they considered wasteful spending and elitist politics at City Hall. He campaigned on promises to “stop the gravy train” by curbing public spending and keeping taxes low.
Whatever the council does, the mayor seems intent on remaining in the public eye. He and his brother are doing a current events television show called “Ford Nation” for the Sun News Network that is set to debut Monday night.
The mayor gained plenty of TV coverage on Sunday by attending the Toronto Argonauts game. The team’s management expressed dismay last week when Ford made crude sexual remarks while wearing the team’s jersey.
The mayor wore the jersey again on Sunday — with the number 12 underneath the name “Mayor Ford.”
He entered the stadium shortly after halftime accompanied by two security staffers, causing a stir as fans clogged the aisles to take photos and shake his hand.
As he left the stadium, many fans admiringly chanted his name, while others yelled derogatory comments.
“He needs to take some time off and get help,” said Argonauts fan Bob Walker. “He means well, he’s done well for the city. It’s just, it’s enough, you know?”
Ford’s erratic behavior was parodied over the weekend by the NBC comedy show “Saturday Night Live,” with cast member Bobby Moynihan portraying the mayor who at one point ducks behind the lectern at a press conference to do a drug deal, exclaiming, “Wow, that’s a lot of crack.”
Associated Press writer Ian Harrison contributed to this report.
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