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Toronto strips crack-smoking mayor of powers

Mayor Rob Ford (C) leaves his office at Toronto City Hall as he is surrounded by media on November 8, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario
Mayor Rob Ford (C) leaves his office at Toronto City Hall as he is surrounded by media on November 8, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario

Toronto city councillors voted to limit their crack-smoking mayor's powers Friday after his latest obscene outburst.

Rob Ford is under fire for a bizarre series of admitted and alleged misdeeds, most recently drawing mockery and gasps when he used obscene language while denying sexual harassment claims.

He later apologized for Thursday's outburst, but it did little to stem the swelling outrage, which began this month when he admitted he had smoked crack cocaine while on a drunken rampage.

Many councillors turned their backs on Ford when he stood to speak Thursday, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, said she was willing to find a way to oust the mayor, if asked by the municipality.

Instead, Toronto's city council passed a motion on Friday morning limiting the mayor's executive powers, effectively leaving him as the city's chief magistrate in name only.

Councillor John Fillion said ahead of the vote that the aim was to "try to contain the mayor so that he doesn't bring down the reputation of council or of the city."

"We can't control his behavior, but certainly we can ensure that city business carries on as usual, perhaps even better," he said.

The motion, supported by an overwhelming majority of councillors, reduces the mayor's budget and staff, and strips him of the powers to appoint committee chairs as well as hire or fire department heads.

One councillor described the move as an attempt to build a "firewall" around the disgraced mayor.

Prior to the vote, Ford vowed to challenge any bid to oust him or limit his powers, saying he has retained a top local municipal affairs lawyer and was ready for a legal battle that could drag on for months.

"I have no other options but to challenge this in court," he said.

"This will be precedent-setting and if we move ahead with this, then obviously if someone else steps out of line like I have, it is going to affect councillors and the mayor I think for years to come," he said.

"So obviously I cannot support this."

The mayor's troubles began several weeks ago when a video surfaced in police hands that appeared to show him smoking crack.

Forced to admit he once smoked the controlled drug, he apologized for his antics, including his many "drunken stupors."

New allegations of misconduct and lewd remarks, disclosed this week, gave another boost to the spiralling scandal.

Ford's former chief of staff, two underlings and a bar waiter alleged in police interviews that Ford had snorted cocaine and partied with a possible prostitute on St Patrick's Day in 2012.

Police used the allegations to obtain a search warrant in an investigation of Ford's friend, Alessandro Lisi, who faces drug and extortion charges.

Ford himself does not face any criminal charges.

Ford reacted angrily as he arrived for work on Thursday, telling reporters he would sue his former staffers and the waiter, calling the allegations "outright lies."

The three staffers were among revelers who joined Ford as he started partying that evening at City Hall.

One of them said he saw a petite blonde blue-eyed woman named Alana he believed was a sex worker.

The staffer told police there had been rumors that Ford "had used escorts or prostitutes" and that Alana had previously been seen with Ford "at a stag party."

"It hurts my wife when they are calling a friend of mine a prostitute. Alana is not a prostitute. She's a friend and it makes me sick how people are saying this," said Ford.

"I'm very happily married at home," he added.

According to the police transcripts, the party moved to a private room at a local bar, where a waiter claimed he saw the mayor and a woman bent over a table and "heard two sniffs from both of them."

Ford rejected this account and allegations that, over the course of the night, he made lewd suggestions to a female policy adviser and a female City Hall security guard.

In his denial, he used an obscene metaphor for oral sex, causing further outrage.


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