Mayor Rob Ford's rehab 'buddy' speaks out
The woman charged with impaired driving while behind the wheel of Mayor Rob Ford’s Cadillac Escalade said they were “best buddies” in rehab.
LeeAnne McRobb broke her silence Wednesday about the days she spent inside the GreeneStone Muskoka rehab facility, where she struck up an almost instant friendship with Ford — whom she describes as a “sweet guy” who wanted to help her.
McRobb said Ford also had friendly nicknames for her and recalled her meetings with both the mayor’s brother, Doug, and his friend and driver, Sandro Lisi.
“(Ford) likes making up these little names he calls people,” McRobb told the Toronto Sun during a meeting at a restaurant in Bala, a town in Muskoka about 200 km north of Toronto. “He tends to call females ‘little birds,’ but he didn’t want to call me that. He called me a ‘little monkey’ because I’d be bouncing around and doing yoga and never (be) in a bad mood. Our friendship grew fast. He said I was his best buddy in rehab.”
McRobb, 36, said she struck up a conversation with Ford about fishing on May 3 or 4 — less than a week after the Toronto mayor enrolled himself into rehab for alcohol and substance abuse treatment.
The friendship evolved from there.
“I introduced myself and ... I was the only girl that was local to the community,” McRobb said. “I think that surprised him because he laughed at a lot of the different things. I’ve had my hunting licence ever since I was 16, just little things like that, that I don’t think he was used to hearing from a woman.”
McRobb said Ford had a few nicknames for her, including “little buddy, monkey” and “country pumpkin” — Ford had mixed up the common expression, “country bumpkin,” meaning a simple country person.
She described the embattled mayor as “a solid person” who “listens” and who would often speak fondly about his two children during his time there.
“Anyone who is loyal to him will always be loyal to him,” McRobb said. “I think (being mayor) is good for his health. I want to come down and campaign for him.”
Asked if she maintains contact with Ford, she said: “I did talk to him quickly this morning but he doesn’t have a lot of time now like he did when he was in GreeneStone — but I miss him.”
The Bala woman said she has battled alcohol issues since her boyfriend died in 2004 and was only at GreeneStone Muskoka rehab facility a mere nine days before she was kicked out.
But questions have been swirling around who the mystery petite blonde was who was charged with DUI while driving Ford’s SUV.
She was charged on May 20 when she was pulled over near the rehab clinic where they were both patients at the time.
She said she had loaned her white Dodge Ram 1500 to another patient at the facility whom she didn’t know.
That person was apparently not allowed off premises and he was missing for 13 hours after telling her he was running a couple quick errands.
When he was found, the front grill was smashed in.
The damage was $5,000, paid out of her pocket, she said.
McRobb said GreeneStone discharged her on May 15.
Ford recommended she take it to a body shop he trusts in Toronto, she said.
“He was just trying to help me,” McRobb recalled. “He gave me the keys and said take (my truck) to this place. He said they were honest.”
McRobb claimed Ford’s friend, Sandro Lisi — who’s facing an extortion charge in connection with the mayor’s crack video — gave her directions from the body shop to Ford’s house so she could pick up the mayor’s Escalade.
However, when asked about Lisi, she said she didn’t wish to discuss it further.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” she said uncomfortably. “Sandro Lisi and all those people, I know them, I’ve met them to say, ‘Hi, how are you?’ But I have no affiliation with those people.”
Ford has repeatedly refused to explain his relationship with McRobb since returning from rehab, but has confirmed he gave her permission to use his SUV.
Amin Massoudi, the mayor’s press secretary, didn’t respond to an e-mail asking Ford whether he directed McRobb to a Toronto body shop or if he had any further information to provide about his rehab stint.
At City Hall Wednesday, Ford refused to talk about his rehab experience.
“I can’t talk about anything at rehab,” Ford told reporters.
Asked if he drank alcohol or did drugs in rehab, Ford again refused to answer the question.
“I can’t talk about anything at rehab, guys,” he said.
Ford ignored a question asking when he last had a drink.
McRobb — who returns for her second court appearance Aug. 5 — said she faces a 90-day licence suspension and spent two hours in jail when she was arrested.
She claims she just had “a couple” of beers.
“I had stopped to get some Gatorade and the next thing I know the cops were all around me. It was wild. They knew me. I am a local girl,” she said.
When she told Ford his Escalade was taken to the Gravenhurst impound lot, she said “he was pissed” but he was "over it" within an hour and calmed down.
On May 21, while McRobb was at the impound lot, getting her belongings from her car, she was videotaped by two reporters from Moose FM that captured her saying she had left her gold-coloured watch in Ford’s room at GreeneStone.
“I was distraught that day and wasn’t feeling great from the alcohol and it was a statement I wish I could take back,” she said. “I don’t know, that was so stupid. We were friends and we’d visit here and there and I was probably visiting there and left it one day. Our rooms were almost side by side. Some people had TVs and I was probably washing my hands and left it, I don’t really recall.”
McRobb denied she had an inappropriate relationship with Ford inside Greene-Stone rehab and remembers him as “a sweet guy” who wanted to help her.
“I am not a home wrecker,” McRobb said. “I don’t even want to use that word, ever. That word is horrible and I don’t want to be referenced as that word ever because it’s not true. People say I was sexual with the mayor and others there, but it is not even remotely close to the truth. Hell no. Rob and I were close buds and that is it. Nothing more.”
Since returning from rehab, Ford has refused to explain his connection with McRobb, claiming what happens inside the facility is confidential.
But McRobb said she was speaking out to clarify a few things.
She also said she never brought booze or drugs to him in rehab.
“I didn’t smuggle anything into GreeneStone to give to anyone,” she claimed. “There may be other people that had that issue but as far as Rob and I were concerned, there was nothing like that going on.”
McRobb said the only time she met Ford’s brother Doug Ford was when he came up to the rehab facility to help the mayor write a speech.
“I was talking to Rob just before Doug got there and we were talking about the speech they were going to write and I said, ‘I’d love to help you with it,’ and I don’t think Doug really (wanted that),” she said. “When Rob and I were becoming friends, it was really odd. Doug and Rob didn’t talk for a bit. It was all because of me because Doug (answering) this anonymous call that I was after Rob’s wallet. Rob said, ‘Go f--- yourself’ and he didn’t talk to him for three weeks.”
Meeting Rob Ford has been a bittersweet moment in her life, McRobb said.
While she regards their meeting as “an experience I will never forget,” it has come at a price.
She has fended off numerous media calls to her home and said she was recently fired from a job because of her ties to Ford.
“They said, ‘We don’t think things are working out,’ ” McRobb said. “They said, ‘There’s been some people talking about you and Rob Ford.’ People were questioning me while I was at work and I can’t just say that wasn’t me. I wasn’t going to lie. It’s affecting my life. Ruining it. I am just a northern girl caught up with these big people.”
But she is focusing on the future by combatting her alcoholism with a new program at an all-women’s facility in Milton in the fall.
She said she wants to beat this disease for her seven-year-old son, who is currently in the care of her sister.
“He’s what I’m aiming at getting better for,” McRobb said. “This whole thing is for my little boy.”
— With files from Don Peat and Joe Warmington
LeeAnne McRobb, who met Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in rehab in Muskoka in May and was charged with driving his vehicle while impaired, speaks to the Toronto Sun in Bala on Wednesday July 9, 2014. She is wearing the watch that she had left in Ford's room. She is holding Ford fridge magnets which she found in his vehicle and took with his permission. (Michael Peake/Toronto Sun)