Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mayor on hot seat at defamation trial

TORONTO—Toronto’s mayor is undergoing a testy cross-examination in a $6-million defamation lawsuit against him.
Restaurant owner George Foulidis is alleging Ford libelled him when the mayor suggested a leasing deal between Foulidis’ company Tuggs Inc. and the city was corrupt—a suggestion he repeated in court today.

Toronto city council extended a lease Foulidis had for his Boardwalk Cafe restaurant on public land in a sole-sourced, untendered contract in the summer of 2010—the middle of Ford’s ultimately successful campaign to become mayor.
Foulidis’ lawyer, Brian Shiller, was asking Ford about comments he made to a Toronto newspaper about in-camera meetings being corrupt.
Shiller asked Ford what he meant by that and appeared to be frustrated by Ford’s general answers about closed-door meetings and eventually the judge stepped in, telling the mayor the question was “quite plain” and hadn’t been answered yet.
Ford ultimately acknowledged that he thought the Tuggs deal was an example of “corruption and skulduggery.”
“These in-camera meetings, there’s more corruption and skulduggery going on in there than I’ve ever seen in my life,” Ford had told the editorial board of the Toronto Sun in the summer of 2010.
“And if Tuggs isn’t, then I don’t know what is.”
Shiller asked Ford what he meant by that statement. And even as he was on the defensive, Ford went on the offensive, railing about in-camera meetings in general.
“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” he said. “It bothers me.
“There’s a lot of [what] I call horse trading,” he added. “You vote for me and I vote for you.”
Shiller tried for several minutes to get Ford to clarify what he meant when he said, “And if Tuggs isn’t, then I don’t know what is,” but was unsuccessful until Ontario Superior Court Judge John Macdonald intervened, saying in his view Ford had not answered the question.
Shiller then asked if “yes” was the answer to his question, that Ford was saying Tuggs was an example of corruption and skulduggery.
“In my view, how it was done and how it was operated, yes,” Ford replied.
Ford’s lawyer is arguing the mayor was talking about Foulidis’ business, Tuggs Inc., and that companies can’t be defamed.
The mayor has suggested the lawsuit is politically-motivated.

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