Taverner dined with interview panelist, Ford before OPP appointment
Toronto police Superintendent Ron Taverner, the Ontario government’s choice as the next commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, met with Premier Doug Ford multiple times in the months leading up to his appointment, including a dinner with the hiring official who vetted Supt. Taverner for the high-profile position.
Supt. Taverner also accompanied Mr. Ford to an event at the Premier’s lakeside cottage just days before it was announced publicly that the top job at the OPP was available, a Globe and Mail review of photographs and related records shows.
Neither man has made a secret of the fact they are friends, and Supt. Taverner’s ties to the Ford family go back even further.
He has publicly praised the late Rob Ford, the former mayor of Toronto who died in 2016 and was himself embroiled in a major police investigation after gang members filmed him smoking crack cocaine in 2013.
Their interactions just prior to his appointment, though, will be of interest to the politicians, judges and watchdogs now examining the government’s appointment of the 72-year-old, midlevel commander.
Following a public outcry over the hire, Supt. Taverner last month deferred accepting the job pending a review by the province’s Integrity Commissioner – a probe into, among other matters, whether Mr. Ford should have recused himself when cabinet approved the appointment.
In the meantime, OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair will be in divisional court Monday, arguing that another watchdog, the Ontario Ombudsman, should investigate the broader issue of whether the Ford government crossed a line and tried to exert control over the police – specifically a police force that has jurisdiction over investigations of government officials.
Mr. Ford has said he had “zero influence” over the hiring. He has repeatedly pointed to the panel of interviewers, saying they recommended Supt. Taverner for the job, not him. “No matter who it was, I would have accepted.”
But a review of the recent encounters between the Premier and the police commander – many of which have been captured in photos and video posted online – shows that one of those interview panelists dined with the two men months before the appointment. On June 18, 2018, Mario Di Tommaso – who would go on to interview applicants in both rounds of the job competition – was seated next to Mr. Ford and Supt. Taverner during the dinner portion of a golf tournament.
At the time, Mr. Ford had been Premier for 11 days, Mr. Di Tommaso was a Toronto police staff superintendent and one of the officers under his charge was Supt. Taverner. The officers have worked for the Toronto Police Service for a combined nine decades.
On Oct. 1, less than four months after the three men dined together, Mr. Di Tommaso was named the new deputy minister of Community Safety – the highest-ranking bureaucrat in Ontario law enforcement. (The other panelist who recommended Supt. Taverner, according to Mr. Ford, was Steve Orsini, the secretary of the cabinet, the province’s top civil servant. On Dec. 14, as criticism of the appointment grew, Mr. Orsini announced he will retire at the end of this month.)
Mr. Ford and Supt. Taverner declined to respond to detailed questions about their multiple meetings in advance of the appointment. Mr. Di Tommaso did not respond to a list of questions.
There is little information on the public record about what the men discussed at any of their meetings, including whether the commissioner’s job came up.
But The Globe has compiled a chronology of events and government moves that raise questions about whether a path was cleared for Supt. Taverner’s appointment – an appointment that Deputy Commissioner Blair says has tarnished the “perceived independence and integrity of the OPP.”