Will Ford Nation be replaced with Spend Nation?
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly talks with the media at City Hall in Toronto Tuesday, November 19, 2013. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)
Although Toronto’s new de facto mayor may not have ever smoked the stuff, could there be a crack when it comes to keeping Mayor Rob Ford’s frugal agenda on track?
“The powers or authority to direct business internally has been divorced from his office,” Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly explained Tuesday when reporters pressed him for details about what was happening now that council stripped Ford of much of his power and budget.
So many rejoiced but will Ford Nation be replaced with Spend Nation?
Did you know the guy in charge of the defrocked mayor’s former purse strings is a former Liberal MP who goes back to Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s tax-and-spend caucus in the 1980s?
Kelly was also part of debt-ridden mayor David Miller’s inner circle and has been probed for his own expense filings.
All I have read is how Kelly offers a “steady hand.”
Mayor Ford, meanwhile, has been warning about some on city council “wanting to get their hands back in the cookie jar.”
Says Ford: “Having me out of the way is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.”
Ford claims he gave his staff a $5,000 raise because they were underpaid, overworked and deserving.
“But I have never wasted a penny of taxpayers’ money,” said Ford, who only has $95,000 left to work with.
Meanwhile, before Kelly starts taking control of $800,000 taken away from Ford’s office budget, should Torontonians ask about his record of handling taxpayers’ money?
A story published in the Toronto Sun Oct. 6, 1999, says “Toronto Councillor Norm Kelly let a $14,000 tab he owed the Toronto Harbour Commission go unpaid for six months until it was uncovered by a Toronto Sun access-to-information request.”
“Kelly received more than $14,000 to compensate him for his purchase of two airline tickets to Barcelona, Spain ... but he cancelled at the last minute, and a cheque his office wrote to reimburse the commission was never cashed,” the story said.
“Kelly paid the bill only after it was unearthed” by “officials gathering figures on expenses for a Sun request under the Municipal Freedom of Information Act.”
An outside investigator was brought in and “found no evidence of wrong doing” since the cheque was misplaced and Kelly had thought he had paid it.
“I’m embarrassed. I’m angry it got lost at the harbour commission,” Kelly said at the time. “It puts me in a very, very awkward position.”
The story continued: “Kelly said he doesn’t keep track of office finances and wouldn’t have noticed the additional $14,000. That’s handled by his wife and assistant, Charlotte Ting.”
Kelly was quoted as saying “she’s been incredibly busy with the office.”
At the time, then-councillor Doug Holyday said, “There aren’t many people out there who wouldn’t notice the difference of $14,000 in their bank account.”
A June 27, 2000, story in the Sun said “Toronto’s audit committee has demanded a detailed report of Kelly’s expense claims” for “a $100-a-day travel per diem from the city for nine days of a European trip he took.”
The story says “he claimed almost $14,000 for the trip” and that Kelly was “also grilled for claiming thousands in travel expenses for wife and executive assistant, Charlotte Ting, and for a $1,072 bill he submitted for a personal side trip to Paris.”
There wasn’t any questioning about the $3,159.40 for another trip he and his wife took to China in 2006 since it came out of his $53,000 office budget.
Under the Miller regime, a June 7, 2007, Sun story that “Kelly hit up taxpayers for more than $7,200, billing the city for 14,508 km of business travel logged on personal vehicles.”
Holyday told the Sun “with the small wards that we have I would say it’s impossible to put that kind of mileage on.”
But Kelly said he “drives a lot because he gets involved in the life of the city and only bills for mileage associated with his job” and he drives “two cars doing it because putting that mileage on one car is incredible.”
In 2007, Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy wrote Kelly billed his 2006 office budget $53.50 for a Costco membership, $8.47 at Chapters for a book, $80 a month for his home phone and Internet to do constituency work, and $22.83 for five Haagen-Dazs ice cream bars and four Nestle Turtle ice cream bars for staff at $12.54.
The gravy train has left the station but could the ice cream truck be on its way to City Hall?