Tav­erner dined with in­ter­view pan­elist, Ford be­fore OPP ap­point­ment

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - GREG MCARTHUR COLIN FREEZE

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.” Au­tumn 2018: A path is cleared

It’s not clear when it be­came known within Queen’s Park that OPP com­mis­sioner Vince Hawkes was set to re­tire. But on Sept. 5, he made it of­fi­cial in a memo to the OPP’s 5,800 uni­formed of­fi­cers and 2,800 civil­ian em­ploy­ees.

What those thou­sands of staff mem­bers didn’t know was that Mr. Hawkes had de­vel­oped a frac­tious re­la­tion­ship with On­tario’s new Premier, ac­cord­ing to Deputy Com­mis­sioner Blair.

Mr. Ford “ex­pressed dis­plea­sure” that the OPP had not given him a se­cu­rity de­tail he “would feel com­fort­able with,” Mr. Blair later al­leged in a com­plaint to the On­tario Om­buds­man about Supt. Tav­erner’s ap­point­ment.

Mr. Ford asked for a face-to­face meet­ing with Com­mis­sioner Hawkes, where he “stated that if for­mer com­mis­sioner Hawkes would not ad­dress the is­sue, per­haps a new com­mis­sioner would,” Deputy Com­mis­sioner Blair al­leged.

In the weeks that fol­lowed Mr. Hawkes’ an­nounce­ment, the gov­ern­ment made a num­ber of moves that – in­ten­tion­ally or not – cre­ated a path for Supt. Tav­erner to as­sume con­trol of the OPP.

On Sept. 24, the gov­ern­ment an­nounced that a key bu­reau­crat was leav­ing, a long-stand­ing pub­lic ser­vant who would have been a key voice at the ta­ble when it came to pick­ing the next com­mis­sioner. Matt To­ri­gian, the deputy min­is­ter of Com­mu­nity Safety and a for­mer Water­loo Re­gional Po­lice Ser­vice chief, was join­ing the Munk School of Global Af­fairs and Pub­lic Pol­icy, the gov­ern­ment said in a news re­lease.

That news was only a week old when the gov­ern­ment named Mr. To­ri­gian’s per­ma­nent re­place­ment: Mr. Di Tom­maso, Supt. Tav­erner’s boss at the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice, would serve as the new deputy min­is­ter of Com­mu­nity Safety.

Right away, Mr. Di Tom­maso was re­quired to dive into one of the most press­ing is­sues con­fronting his min­istry: Who would lead the provin­cial po­lice force re­spon­si­ble for pa­trolling 323 On­tario towns and vil­lages and 127,000 kilo­me­tres of high­ways?

On his first day of work – Oct. 22, a Mon­day – the com­pe­ti­tion of­fi­cially opened to find the next OPP com­mis­sioner.

Two days after the po­si­tion was posted, an al­ter­ation was made to the job re­quire­ments. Orig­i­nally, ap­pli­cants needed to have the “rank of Deputy Chief or higher,” which would have pre­cluded Supt. Tav­erner from ap­ply­ing. But on Oct. 24, that re­stric­tion was mod­i­fied to al­low for any “ex­pe­ri­enced ex­ec­u­tive with a back­ground in polic­ing.”

No one in the pub­lic ser­vice has taken credit for this al­ter­ation.

In his fourth week on the job, Mr. Di Tom­maso and an­other deputy min­is­ter started the first round of in­ter­views. Thir­teen can­di­dates were in­ter­viewed, Deputy Com­mis­sioner Blair said.

By Mr. Di Tom­maso’s fifth week on the job, the gov­ern­ment had nar­rowed it down to three can­di­dates. On Nov. 20, Mr. Di Tom­maso and the head of the pub­lic ser­vice, Mr. Orsini, in­ter­viewed those ap­pli­cants: Deputy Com­mis­sioner Blair, OPP Provin­cial Com­man­der Mary Sil­ver­thorn and Supt. Tav­erner.

On Nov. 29, the gov­ern­ment an­nounced Supt. Tav­erner would be the next OPP com­mis­sioner.

The news shook the se­nior lead­er­ship of the OPP, which coin­ci­den­tally gath­ered two days later at Blue Moun­tain re­sort to cel­e­brate the re­tire­ment of Mr. Hawkes.

Mr. Di Tom­maso was there.

The em­cee for the event was re­tired OPP in­ves­ti­ga­tor Chris Ni­cholas, best known as the of­fi­cer who over­saw the force’s suc­cess­ful 2010 in­ves­ti­ga­tion of for­mer air-force colonel Rus­sell Wil­liams, a se­rial sex­ual preda­tor and mur­derer.

Mr. Ni­cholas shared an anec­dote. His grand­chil­dren were ad­mir­ing the badges he had been awarded as he as­cended through the ranks of the OPP.

They no­ticed a cer­e­mo­nial, honorary com­mis­sioner badge he had been given, even though he had re­tired as a su­per­in­ten­dent – three ranks below com­mis­sioner. His grand­daugh­ter asked: Were you the com­mis­sioner?

“That would be silly,” his sixyear-old grand­son replied. “You can’t be the com­mis­sioner of the OPP from the su­per­in­ten­dent rank. You need at least two badges be­fore that.”

The room erupted with laugh­ter.

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