Mayor Rob Ford is in a Toronto courtroom this morning to fight a $6-million defamation lawsuit, and is expected to testify later today.
The owner of an east-end restaurant filed the suit over comments by Ford during his 2010 election campaign.
At the time, Ford was incensed that the city gave a 20-year lease extension to the operator of the Boardwalk Cafe along Woodbine Beach.
Ford said the deal "stinks to high heaven." He also agreed with a radio interviewer when asked: "Is someone getting money under the table?"
The restaurant's owner, George Foulidis, is accusing Ford of libel, saying he suggested he won the contract as a result of illegal activity. Ford wouldn't talk about this case when asked about it on Monday.
The National Post goes into detail about the background to the libel suit.
The statement of claim was filed before Rob Ford was elected mayor. It centres on remarks he made about a controversial decision to award the vending rights along a swath of the Eastern Beach to George Foulidis, the owner of Tuggs Inc., the company that operates the Boardwalk Pub, without a public tender.
Mr. Foulidis alleges that Mr. Ford defamed him when he suggested impropriety during an interview on Newstalk 1010 in July 2010. Asked by radio host Jerry Agar if anyone is getting money under the table, Mr. Ford said “I truly believe they are, and that’s my personal opinion, and when I see all these donations, going through campaigns, it stinks to high heaven.”
The statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court of Justice in October 2010 also cites part of a Toronto Sun news article, based on an editorial board meeting with the mayoral candidate. Council’s decision to award the untendered contract to Tuggs Inc. “smacks of civic corruption,” says the article, paraphrasing Mr. Ford, although he is not quoted using those exact words. He does tell the newspaper: “If Tuggs isn’t, then I don’t know what is” and that the deal “stinks to high heaven.” (Then-mayor David Miller blasted Mr. Ford’s comments at the time, to which Mr. Ford responded in a press release: “I think it was corruption, Mayor Miller doesn’t, so let’s make all the information public and let the taxpayers decide for themselves.”)
[. . .]
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, who chaired the audit committee during the last term, said there was “no proof” of illegal activity regarding the Tuggs deal.
“I guess it depends what one means by corruption. What Rob meant, I have no idea. Certainly, if he meant they did not follow the city’s policy and they didn’t do what was in the best interest of the taxpayer, if that’s what he meant, he was right,” Mr. Holyday said. “I think [council] acted improperly. Whether corruption was involved, I don’t know.”
The Toronto Star quotes Foulidis' lawyer as saying that Foulidis had no choice but to sue in order to protect his reputation as a businessperson.