Aide sent sex­ual texts to 5 PC staffers, sources say

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Canada & World - ROB FER­GU­SON AND ROBERT BEN­ZIE

At least five fe­male Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive staffers re­ceived sex­u­ally in­ap­pro­pri­ate texts with pho­tos at­tached from a for­mer top aide to Pre­mier Doug Ford, sources told the Star.

Com­plaints about late-night mes­sages from An­drew Kim­ber, Ford’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of is­sues man­age­ment and leg­isla­tive af­fairs — in­clud­ing pic­tures of him in un­der­wear — led to his sud­den de­par­ture last Fri­day morn­ing.

Break­ing his si­lence for the first time since the al­le­ga­tions sur­faced, Kim­ber said in a Twit­ter state­ment Thurs­day that he is sorry for his “un­ac­cept­able” con­duct.

“I un­re­servedly apol­o­gize for the pain I have caused oth­ers by my re­cent ac­tions,” he wrote.

“Ev­ery­one has the right to live and work free from ha­rass­ment, and I’m sorry for those who I have hurt. I am also sorry to my friends and col­leagues in the

Ford govern­ment and the dis­ser­vice I brought to the of­fice,” Kim­ber added. “I take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for my be­hav­iour. I re­signed my po­si­tion to deal with th­ese is­sues and will seek the help I need go­ing for­ward.”

The texts from Kim­ber, who un­til re­cently oc­cu­pied one of the top po­si­tions in the pre­mier’s of­fice, be­gan dur­ing last spring’s On­tario elec­tion cam­paign and con­tin­ued un­til re­cently, sev­eral sources said. They sug­gested al­co­hol was a con­tribut­ing fac­tor.

With Kim­ber in a key job, the power im­bal­ance be­tween him and the sub­jects of his texts grew wider, rais­ing deeper con­cerns about the un­wanted mis­sives, Con­ser­va­tive sources said.

The texts were first flagged by one com­plainant be­fore four more came for­ward, one in­sider told the Star.

“He lasted about a minute when we found out,” said Ford, who has of­fered to ar­range coun­selling ser­vices for any staff re­quest­ing it.

Kim­ber’s de­par­ture was not men­tioned in any news re­lease. As­so­ciates said he is trav­el­ling abroad this week.

Iron­i­cally, Kim­ber was ousted last Fri­day shortly af­ter telling su­pe­ri­ors in the pre­mier’s of­fice about an al­le­ga­tion that for­mer eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter Jim Wil­son made a sex­u­ally in­ap­pro­pri­ate re­mark to a male staffer the night be­fore, Con­ser­va­tive party sources said Thurs­day.

“As soon as I found out, within hours, they were done, they were gone,” Ford said ear­lier this week in his first com­ments about the scan­dals. An in­de­pen­dent firm has been hired to in­ves­ti­gate the com­plaints.

Wil­son’s res­ig­na­tion from cabi­net and the PC cau­cus, sub­mit­ted at the re­quest of Ford, was an­nounced in a news re­lease Nov. 2 at din­ner­time af­ter a dra­matic day be­hind closed doors in the pre­mier’s of­fice. Ear­lier that day, Wil­son, a vet­eran min­is­ter from the pre­vi­ous Har­ris and Eves govern­ments, Ford, then-trans­porta­tion min­is­ter John Yak­abuski and Sar­nia-Lambton MPP Bob Bai­ley were in Sar­nia to an­nounce the first “open for busi­ness” bor­der sign.

Un­be­knownst to Wil­son, of­fi­cials had be­gun set­ting the wheels in mo­tion dur­ing the Sar­nia trip.

The pre­mier de­fended his ini­tial de­ci­sion not to say Wil­son was leav­ing be­cause of a sex­ual mis­con­duct com­plaint, in­stead ap­prov­ing a news re­lease stat­ing only that the min­is­ter had quit to seek ad­dic­tion treat­ment, be­cause he wanted to shield ac­cusers of the two men from me­dia at­ten­tion.

Wil­son has not replied to re­peated re­quests for com­ment from the Star. He has en­tered a re­hab fa­cil­ity for al­co­hol ad­dic­tion.

BRAD PRITCHARD METROLAND

For­mer min­is­ter Jim Wil­son, left, was ousted last Fri­day along with An­drew Kim­ber, a top aide to Pre­mier Doug Ford.

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