TORONTO — A defiant Mayor Rob Ford brushed aside questions about a new claim Thursday that he knew the whereabouts of an alleged crack cocaine video in another chaotic day that saw two more aides leave.
As the firestorm continued to rage, Ford said he’s staying put.
“I’m not stepping aside,” Ford said late Thursday.
“I’m running in the next election. Things are doing great and we’re doing fine.”
Repeatedly asked about the allegations, Ford simply said: “Anything else? Anything else”
That left his brother, Coun. Doug Ford, to denounce a Toronto Star report — it did not name its sources — that alleged the mayor told senior aides not to worry about the video purportedly showing him smoking crack because he knew where it was.
“This is another false accusation. This is the Toronto Star trying to keep the story alive,” Coun. Ford said.
“In my opinion, we have a disgruntled employee, ex-employee I should say, that obviously is upset that’s thrown these false accusations out.”
Ford had already parted ways with three key staff members — his chief of staff and two press aides — since the scandal erupted two weeks ago. The latest departures brought the number to five.
In a similar pattern to when former chief of staff Mark Towhey was escorted out of city hall, another aide, policy adviser Brian Johnston, left under escort Thursday.
Johnston told reporters in the basement garage he had resigned because “the timing was right.”
Ford’s executive assistant, Kia Nejatian, also left the mayor’s office early Thursday although the circumstances were not immediately clear.
Earlier in the day, Ford elbowed his way through a crush of media as he entered city hall. As reporters attempted to get him to respond, he said only “move!” as he pushed into his office.
In a sign of the tension outside the mayor’s “fishbowl” office, every glimpse of the mayor was accompanied by the clacking roar of camera shutters.
At one point, reporters rushed after a Ford aide thinking he had been fired. He was only going to the washroom.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. website Gawker and the Star said they had seen cellphone video made by a drug dealer that apparently showed Ford smoking crack.
The reports have not been independently verified and the Star itself has said it could not vouch for its authenticity. Gawker has raised $200,000 to try to buy the video.
According to latest Star report, sources said Ford told alarmed senior aides a day after the scandal erupted that he knew where the video was, and named apartments at a west-end complex.
Still, Ford insisted it was business as usual.
“I emphasize, and I assure you, that the work is being done, phone calls are being returned, emails are being responded to.”
But unhappy councillors said the scandal has disrupted business at city hall.
Coun. James Pasternak expressed dismay at how Ford has refused to address the allegations in a substantive fashion.
“We’re looking for unequivocal statements from the mayor,” Pasternak said. “The ducking and weaving and waffling just won’t work around here.”
Pasternak said the circus that has surrounded Ford is a damaging distraction that gets worse with each passing day.
Under current provincial law, a person may be disqualified from holding office if imprisoned, or an office may be declared vacant in a judicial proceeding.
Premier Kathleen Wynne expressed concern Toronto residents were losing confidence in their municipal leaders.
“The mayor needs to deal with his personal issues,” Wynne said. “The lack of having dealt with them is creating a lot of that confusion.”
“The premier should take care of the problems she has at Queen’s Park right now,” Ford shot back.
Meanwhile, police said a second arrest had been made in the March killing of a Toronto man believed to be seen with Ford in a photo linked to the crack video scandal.
Police said Hanad Mohamed, 23, was arrested last week in Fort McMurray, Alta., in the death of Anthony Smith and was to appear in court in Toronto on Friday charged with first-degree murder.
Nisar Hashimi, 23, was arrested in April and also faces first-degree murder charges in Smith’s death.
Ford has said he is photographed with many people and doesn’t know them all.