Rob Ford - the headline-making mayor of Toronto - has recently become the subject of a complaint to the city's Integrity Commissioner over accusations that he and his brother, Doug, engaged in lobbying on behalf of its family business, Deco Labels & Tags. The complaint was filed by government watchdog group Democracy Watch.
According to the complaint, the Ford brothers allegedly used their influence in Toronto to introduce a printing company - RR Donnelley and Sons - to city officials. The conflict arises because, at the time, Deco Labels & Tags was also doing business with that company. The complaint alleges that the Fords received some benefit for the referral.
Duff Conacher, a board member with Democracy Watch who filed the complaint, told CP24 in Toronto, “This situation raises questions about whether the Fords are trying to get on the so called gravy train themselves indirectly by helping businesses that do business with their business. This is really the third most serious wrongdoing you can do while in office. Number one would be straight up stealing or taking a bribe, number two would be directly helping your business by awarding contracts to it or something like that and number three is indirectly helping your business.”
This is not the first time that the Fords have been accused of using their label business unethically. According to The Toronto Star, in 2010, the city paid the Ford family's company more than $56,000 to print stickers, tags and decals for various departments. Even though the city was doing business with Deco Labels & Tags before Rob Ford was elected to council 10 years ago, his role as the mayor has raised ethical questions about the city's relationship with Deco Labels and Tags.
The Toronto Star explains that it is city policy for staff to seek at least three bids on any contract. From there, the lowest bid that meets the demands is chosen. At the time, spokesperson Jackie DeSousa said that the Fords' company is treated exactly like any other business.
“The people in purchasing who deal with these firms are not dealing with Councilor Doug Ford or the mayor. They’re dealing with a salesperson at Deco Labels. They feel absolutely no pressure,” she said.
From 2000 until 2011, the city paid Deco Labels & Tags more than $130,000 on 98 contracts.