Published On: Wed, Nov 14th, 2012

Rob Ford libel trial gets ‘curveball’ as missing tape emerges

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Lawyers in Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s libel trial are dealing with what’s being called a “curveball” as an audio recording of an interview that was thought to be erased emerged at the last minute.

The mayor has been slapped with a $6-million defamation suit by restaurateur George Foulidis over comments Ford made in Aug. 2010 concerning a deal between the city and Foulidis’ business, Tuggs Inc.

Ford was incensed at the time that the city gave an untendered 20-year lease extension to Tuggs Inc. for the continued operation of the Boardwalk Café along Woodbine Beach. Foulidis has said Ford has suggested he won the contract as a result of illegal activity.

At the heart of the case was a story that ran in the Toronto Sun on Aug. 11, 2010 following a conversation that Ford had with the paper’s editorial board.

Court heard on Tuesday that Ford never directly said the deal “smacks of civic corruption,” as reported in the Toronto Sun story.

The mayor’s lawyer, Gavin Tighe, told court then that his client never said that, and said a recording of Ford’s conversation with the Sun has since been erased and the reporter’s notes are no longer available.

But later Tuesday, the Toronto Sun published a transcript of excerpts from the interview after former staff member Rob Granatstein sent them an audio recording.

Granatstein, now with canada.com, explained in an online posting how he came to hold the tape for more than two years before returning it to the Sun on Tuesday.

‘Civic corruption’ comment never made

In the excerpts published in the Sun on Tuesday, Ford is never quoted as saying the deal “smacks of civic corruption.” But when asked about the Foulidis contract, Ford makes reference to “in camera” discussions, in which councillors and staff hold private meetings in which the discussions are not made public.

“But these in camera meetings, there’s more corruption and skullduggery going in there than I’ve ever seen in my life,” the Sun reported Ford as saying at the time.

“I don’t know what it is. And I can’t accuse anyone or I can’t pinpoint it, but why do we have to go in camera on the Tuggs deal?”

Brian Shiller, Foulidis’ lawyer, said Wednesday that he received a call Tuesday night from a lawyer representing the Toronto Sun that the tape had been uncovered. It is an hour long, Shiller said.

The tape, which Shiller, described as a “curveball” had the immediate effect of causing some confusion around scheduling of when affected parties should testify, including the mayor himself.

What is not immediately clear is how significant an effect it could have on the bearing of the proceedings and on the lawyers’ arguments.

Foulidis ‘felt like a criminal’

Foulidis, testifying on Wednesday, said he “was humiliated and felt like a criminal” after reading the Sun editorial board report.

He said he felt he had been scrutinized as a result of the deal, but the Sun report “took it to another level.” He said he was ridiculed in public after the report was published.

Foulidis began to cry as he testified, saying his 10-year-old daughter asked him if he did anything wrong. He said Ford voiced his criticisms of the deal “to get votes.”

Foulidis denied that his motive for filing the suit was political, saying he wants to clear his name.

Ford is not expected to testify until tomorrow morning.

The trial continues.

(CBC News)

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