Integrity Commissioner’s ruling on OPP Commissioner appointment contains clear evidence Ford’s Chief of Staff, deputy minister and possibly others gave preferential treatment to Ron Taverner and Mario di Tomasso
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, March 25, 2019
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake calling on him to issue a public ruling on Premier Ford’s Chief of Staff Dean French (and possibly other Ford staff) providing preferential treatment to Ford’s friend Ron Taverner, and also to Mario Di Tomasso and Chris Froggatt, which would violate the provincial government ethics law.
Democracy Watch’s letter also calls on Commissioner Wake to investigate whether Ford violated the rules in the ethics law that require him to ensure his staff are familiar with the ethics rules, and to promote ethical conduct by his staff.
The letter was also sent to Ontario Conflict of Interest Commissioner Sidney Linden calling on him to issue a public ruling on former Secretary of the Cabinet Steve Orsini also providing preferential treatment to Mr. Taverner and Mr. Di Tomasso. Commissioner Linden is still the person who enforces the ethics law for the Secretary (under clause 62(1)4 of the Public Service of Ontario Act, until May 1, 2019, when Commissioner Linden’s office will be merged with Integrity Commissioner Wake’s office).
Commissioner Wake’s ruling issued last Wednesday concerning the OPP Commissioner appointment process contains clear evidence that Dean French, and former Secretary of the Cabinet Steve Orsini, provided preferential treatment to Mr. Taverner with regard to the offer Premier Ford made to Taverner of an executive job with the government’s Ontario Cannabis store, and also throughout the OPP Commissioner appointment process that resulted in Premier Ford’s attempted appointment of his friend Mr. Taverner.
There is also evidence in Commissioner Wake’s ruling that Mr. French and Mr. Orsini provided preferential treatment to Mario Di Tomasso by considering only him for the position of Deputy Minister of Community Safety, which helped ensure Mr. Taverner’s appointment as OPP Commissioner given Mr. Di Tomasso was Mr. Taverner’s former boss at the Toronto Police Service.
Finally, there is also evidence in Commissioner Wake’s ruling that Mr. French provided preferential treatment to Chris Froggatt in connecting him (and him only) with Mr. Taverner after the Ford Cabinet appointed him as OPP Commissioner to have him give Mr. Taverner communications advice and assistance.
Further investigation is needed by Commissioner Wake to determine if the actions of Derek O’Toole, Senior Policy Advisor in Premier Ford’s office, and Greg Harrington, Policy Advisor to Mr. French, also crossed the line in the ethics law. There is some evidence in Commissioner Wake’s ruling that they also provided preferential treatment to Mr. Taverner.
See the Evidence from the Integrity Commissioner’s Ruling set out below that details the evidence of this preferential treatment in Commissioner Wake’s ruling.
All public servants in the Ontario government, including ministers’ staff and the Secretary to the Cabinet, are prohibited by regulations under the Public Service of Ontario Act from giving preferential treatment to any person or entity, and are required to “endeavour to avoid creating the appearance that preferential treatment is being given to a person or entity…”
Premier Ford, like all ministers, is required to ensure his staff know this rule and the other ethics rules, and to promote ethical conduct by his staff.
See the Details on the Ontario Government Ethics Law and Regulations set out below.
“There is clear evidence in the Integrity Commissioner’s ruling on the OPP Commissioner appointment process that Premier Ford’s Chief of Staff Dean French and his former deputy minister violated Ontario government ethics rules by giving preferential treatment to Ron Taverner more than once, and also to Mario Di Tomasso,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Hopefully the Integrity Commissioner will do the right thing and stop ignoring the clear evidence of violations that he gathered in his investigation of the OPP Commissioner appointment process, and will issue a public ruling finding Premier Ford’s staff guilty of violating provincial ethics rules.”
“Hopefully Premier Ford will do the right thing and penalize his staff for violating these key rules that are aimed at ensuring democratic good government for all the people of Ontario, not just for Premier Ford’s friends,” said Conacher.
Premier Ford has the power to penalize his staff for violations of the ethics rules under section 70 of the Act. The question is, will he penalize them?
– 30 –
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
Details on the Ontario Government Ethics Law and Regulations
As summarized on the website of Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake, ministers’ staff are subject to various ethics measures by the Public Service of Ontario Act (sections 2, 4, 66 to 69 and 94 to 98) and a regulation under that Act (O.Reg. 382/07).
Section 6 of the regulation prohibits giving “preferential treatment to any person or entity” and requires ministers’ staff to “endeavour to avoid creating the appearance that preferential treatment is being given to a person or entity…”
For the Secretary of the Cabinet, different parts of the Act apply (sections 56-65) and a different regulation (O.Reg. 381/07) but it has the same section 6 rules prohibiting preferential treatment, as set out on the website of Ontario Conflict of Interest Commissioner Sydney Linden.
Section 67 of the Act requires Premier Ford and other ministers to ensure their staff are familiar with the ethics rules, and to promote ethical conduct by his staff.
Premier Ford has the power to penalize his staff for violations of the ethics rules under section 70 of the Act.
Evidence from the Integrity Commissioner’s Ruling of Preferential Treatment
The following is the clear evidence in Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake’s March 20th ruling on the Ford’s government’s attempted appointment of Ron Taverner as OPP Commissioner that Premier Ford’s Chief of Staff Dean French, and Secretary of the Cabinet Steve Orsini, provided preferential treatment to Premier Ford’s friend Ron Taverner, and also Mario Di Tomasso, and also that Dean French provided preferential treatment to Chris Froggatt. Also below is some evidence that Derek O’Toole, Senior Policy Advisor in Premier Ford’s office, and Greg Harrington, Policy Advisor to Mr. French, participated in this preferential treatment offered to Mr. Taverner, although further investigation and confirmation is needed. It is a violation of section 6 of O.Reg. 382/07 for public servants in a minister’s office (as defined under (sections 2, 4, 66 to 69) of the Public Service of Ontario Act even to appear to give preferential treatment to anyone or any entity. It is a violation of section 6 of O.Reg. 381/07 for the Secretary of the Cabinet even to appear to give preferential treatment to anyone or any entity.
- On pp. 21-24 of his ruling (paras. 78-90), Commissioner Wake details how Premier Ford offered his friend Ron Taverner a job on the executive of the government’s new Ontario Cannabis Store, and how Dean French also made the offer to Mr. Taverner, and how Mr. French and Steve Orsini made the offer process happen officially, at a salary of $270,000 annually for four years, through the Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Finance – all of which is clear evidence that Mr. Taverner was given preferential treatment;
- Commissioner Wake gathered all of the following evidence of preferential treatment given to Mr. Taverner through the OPP Commissioner appointment process, and also to Mario Di Tomasso during that process:
(a) On p. 30 of his ruling, in the transcript of Commissioner Wake’s interview with Dean French, Premier Ford’s Chief of Staff, Mr. French says both he and Premier Ford both recommended to then-Secretary of the Cabinet Steve Orsini (who serves at the pleasure of Premier Ford) that Ron Taverner be considered for the OPP Commissioner job (and then French corrects himself to say that only he recommended that to Orsini);
(b) On p. 31 (para. 115), Mr. French is cited as saying to Mr. Orsini that the Premier held Taverner “in high regard” and (para. 116) that he recommended to Taverner that he apply for OPP Commissioner;
(c) On p. 33 (para. 127), Mr. French confirms that he suggested to Mr. Orsini that Mario Di Tommaso be made Deputy Minister to the Minister of Community Safety;
(d) Also on pp. 33-34 (paras. 129-132), former Deputy Minister to the Minister of Community Safety Matt Torigian (who was pushed out of his position by Mr. French, as detailed on pp. 31-32) says Mr. Orsini told Mr. Torigian that he was being “pressured” to find a job for Mr. Taverner (and Mr. Orsini confirms some aspects of this conversation);
(e) On p. 35, Deputy Attorney General Paul Boniferro states that Mr. Orsini told him that “…the Premier’s Office had suggested Mr. Taverner for a role at the OCS in the summer and that he thought that the Premier’s Office would also suggest Mr. Taverner for the deputy minister role. Mr. Boniferro stated that the Secretary thought that it would be more appropriate for Mr. Taverner to apply for the OPP Commissioner position.”
(f) Also on p. 35 (para. 135), Mr. Orsini confirms that Mr. Di Tomasso was the only person he interviewed for the Deputy Minister of Community Safety position;
(g) On pp. 37-40 (paras. 139-152), it is detailed that Mr. Orsini reached out to Mr. Taverner, met with him, and let Sal Badali of Odgers Berndtson (the search firm contracted to assist with the OPP Commissioner appointment) know that Mr. Taverner was interested in the OPP position;
(h) On pp. 43-44 (paras. 165-168), it is detailed that Mr. French called Mr. Orsini to request that the rank requirement in the OPP Commissioner job notice be changed;
(i) On pp. 44-45 (paras. 169-171), Derek O’Toole, Senior Policy Advisor in Premier Ford’s office, and Greg Harrington, Policy Advisor to Mr. French, confirm that they both spoke to Mr. Orsini about changing the rank requirements in the OPP Commissioner job notice;
(j) On p. 45 (para. 173), the Executive Assistant to the General Counsel for Mr. Orsini confirms that Mr. Orsini told her that Mr. French had asked him to change the job notice, and also told her that “he suspected that Mr. Taverner called Mr. French to notify him that he would not be able to apply to the job” unless the rank requirement was changed;
(k) On p. 52 (paras. 203-204), it is confirmed that Mr. French requested to be on the selection committee for OPP Commissioner and be involved “early in the process” and that Mr. Di Tomasso (Mr. Taverner’s former boss in the Toronto Police Service) was also on the selection committee;
(l) On pp. 53-54 (paras. 205-207), it is confirmed that Mr. Orsini texted Mr. French to let him know Mr. Taverner was on the short list of candidates for OPP Commissioner, and that Mr. French responded by texting that was the “Best news all day” and that Mr. Orsini knew “they were interested in” Mr. Taverner (with “they” very likely referring to the Premier and Mr. French);
(m) On pp. 55-56 (paras. 215-216), it is confirmed that Mr. Orsini sent a text to Mr. French to let him know the “Great news” that Mr. Taverner was one of three candidates approved after the first round of interviews and that “It is now up to the second panel of you, Mario, Sal and I to recommend to the Premier.”
(n) On pp. 56-59 (paras. 219-229), it is confirmed that Mr. French, Mr. O’Toole and Mr. Harrington all attended a meeting before the second round of interviews with Mr. Badali, Mr. Di Tomasso and Mr. Orsini (all members of the selection committee), and that subsequently Mr. French (after meeting again with Mr. Orsini, and after talking with Premier Ford) finally recognized the clear conflict of interest resulting from his involvement in the selection process up to that point, and so he finally withdrew from the second-round selection committee interview process the evening before it took place;
(o) On pp. 62-3 (paras. 239-242, and see also paras. 260-261), Mr. Wake concludes that; the selection process was not independent of Premier Ford; Mr. Orsini knew that Premier Ford wanted to give Taverner a government job and had taken actions to ensure Taverner applied for the OPP Commissioner job, and; Mr. Orsini had communications with Mr. French during the selection process that favoured Mr. Taverner, and the result was the selection process was unfairly tilted in favour of Mr. Taverner.
- There is also evidence Dean French gave Chris Froggatt preferential treatment by contacting him (and him only) to connect him with Ron Taverner after he was appointed OPP Commissioner to give Taverner communications advice and assistance, as documented on p. 68 (paras. 262-263) and on pp. 75-76 (paras. 282-283) of the Integrity Commissioner’s ruling.