TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford did not break ethics rules during the process to appoint a new police commissioner — but the process wasn't entirely fair either, the province's integrity commissioner said Wednesday.
"I found that the Premier stayed at arm's length from the recruitment process and that he believed it to be independent," commissioner J. David Wake wrote in his final report on the allegations that Ford interfered to get his friend, Ron Taverner, the job.
"However, I found that there were some troubling aspects of the recruitment process and ultimately made the finding that the process was flawed."
Ford wasn't personally involved in the process but his chief of staff Dean French was, Wake found.
'Disconcerting' text messages
Text messages between French and Secretary of the Cabinet Steve Orsini, the government's top bureaucrat, were "disconcerting," Wake said.
"There seemed to be a tacit acknowledgement by the Secretary that Mr. French was rooting for Mr. Taverner's success. Anyone examining these messages would have serious doubts as to the fairness of the process to the other candidates."
French told the commissioner in an interview that he recommended to Orsini that Taverner, a Toronto police superintendent, be considered for the position.
When the job was first posted, Taverner's rank was too low for him to qualify. The requirements changed days later, allowing him to apply.
Earlier: Doug Ford says he wasn't involved in friend's hiring. Story continues after video.
Wake outlined two different explanations for this. Orsini said that French called him to ask why the requirements were "so restrictive" and if they could be changed. French, on the other hand, said Orsini told him the description did not match recommendations made by an executive search firm hired by the government to assist in the recruitment.
NDP MPP Kevin Yarde and Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser requested in December that the commissioner investigate whether Ford breached conflict of interest rules.
It was announced that Taverner, a longtime friend of the Ford family, would be the next commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in November. Taverner withdrew his name from consideration on March 6, 2019, because of the controversy surrounding his appointment.
This complaint was baseless and totally political.Premier Doug Ford
Ford said that the report was a "complete vindication" for his government.
"The integrity commissioner found that we followed the letter of the law. As we said, over and over again," the premier told reporters.
"This complaint was baseless and totally political."
The government has since appointed Thomas Carrique, former York Regional Police deputy chief, as the new provincial police commissioner.