Four things we learned from Rob Ford’s staffers’ emails

Four things we learned from Rob Ford’s staffers’ emails

(Image: Christopher Drost)

On Monday, reporters at a few Toronto news outlets laid hands on something they’d been chasing for months: a stack of emails sent to and by Rob Ford’s senior staff members before and after May 16, the day Gawker published the first story about Ford’s crack video.

Several reporters filed freedom of information requests shortly after the story broke, and it has taken this long for the city to prepare the emails for release. (They had to be culled and redacted.) Was it worth the wait? Well, sort of. No incredible revelations have been reported so far, but the documents do provide a new perspective on how Ford’s closest advisors handled the crisis. It’s clear now that their biggest challenge wasn’t handling the press; it was handling the mayor.

Here are four things we learned from yesterday evening’s stories about the emails.

1. Ford had to be “begged” to stay off talk radio the night the crack scandal broke

Ford has never seemed comfortable in front of news cameras, and he rarely gives one-on-one interviews to print journalists, but he loves radio appearances. On the day the scandal broke, Ford’s press secretary at the time, George Christopoulos, wrote in an email: “I was speaking with him tonight begging him to stay off talk radio. Exhausting.” Christopoulos resigned a little more than a week later.

2. The scandal seems to have rattled the city’s bureaucracy, too

City manager Joe Pennachetti is known for his calm, almost soothing approach to policy problems stirred up by Toronto’s political masters. His job is to keep Toronto’s bureaucracy functioning, no matter what. And so it’s surprising (and honestly, a little funny) that this latest document dump includes evidence that he, like the rest of us, was extremely unsettled by the crack mess. According to the Sun, an email he sent to Christopoulos in the scandal’s immediate aftermath says, simply: “Pls. call my cell ASAP!!”

3. Ford’s office tried to distract reporters, and failed

The Sun‘s summary of the emails also describes an early effort by Ford’s staffers to distract reporters from the crack story. On May 25, the mayor’s logistics director David Price (who has since been laid off) urged one of Doug Ford’s staff members to persuade “friendly” media to cover the mayor’s efforts to drive “crack dealers” out of West Deane Park, in Etobicoke.

4. Ford’s staffers sometimes knew as little about their boss’s whereabouts as the rest of us

The Star noticed that many of the emails swept up by the freedom of information request seem to confirm the popular belief that the mayor’s staff often have no idea where he is. After midnight on May 19, a few of Ford’s staffers—including Christopoulos and Ford’s ex-chief of staff Mark Towhey—were scanning Twitter for evidence of their boss’s whereabouts. When one Twitter user claimed that Ford was “stormin’ the dancefloor” at a Dundas Street bar called “Sex Laser” (because naturally the mayor would choose the bar with the most embarrassing name) Christopolous wrote: “I’m calling BS.”

Also of note: the Sun’s cover today is incredible. Good job, Sun editors.