Tories blast OPP commissioner’s ‘unfounded allegations’ about Taverner hiringInterim OPP Commissioner Brad Blair wants Taverner’s installation as OPP commissioner to be delayed pending a review by the Ontario ombudsman of the appointment.
Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives are attacking interim OPP Commissioner Brad Blair for formally complaining to the Ontario ombudsman about the controversial hiring of Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner.
But NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is urging Taverner, who is to be sworn in Monday as Ontario Provincial Police commissioner, to temporarily stand down.
Horwath on Wednesday called upon the RCMP to probe Blair's "allegations of political interference by Doug Ford" and the premier's office's apparent desire to have taxpayers buy a customized "pimped-out ride" for Ford.
Despite the political heat, Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones said the Conservatives are sticking with Taverner, 72, a long-time Ford pal.
"We are not going to comment on Mr. Blair's motivations for using the office he holds to raise these issues. We will explore the appropriate venue to review the content of a letter that we fully and completely dispute," Jones said in a statement.
"The government stands by the process leading to the appointment of Mr. Taverner as the next commissioner of the OPP," the minister said.
"Mr. Taverner has more than 50 years of exemplary police service. It is unfortunate that this service has been unfairly maligned by unfounded allegations about the appointment process," she said.
"We would respect any decision made by the ombudsman about an inquiry into this matter and would co-operate with any such review."
Jones' 10:15 a.m. statement was the first government comment after more than 14 hours of silence from Ford's embattled administration.
The premier himself ducked reporters after a speech to the Toronto Global Forum at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and was holed up in his Queen's Park office for most of the day.
In a text to the Toronto Sun, Ford dismissed Blair's complaint as "sour grapes."
Horwarth, calling Jones' statement "shameful" and "disgusting," implored him to come clean with Ontarians.
"Premier, you've got to 'fess up," she said.
Alleging "potential political interference" in Taverner's appointment, Blair filed a complaint late Tuesday requesting that Ontario's ombudsman, Paul Dubé, probe the hiring of his successor.
Dubé's office declined to comment on the status of the complaint. An ombudsman's report could not thwart Taverner's appointment but could prove politically embarrassing to the government.
The 51-year veteran Toronto police superintendent was a surprise choice to helm the OPP. He had never applied for a job at the provincial force before.
Blair wants Taverner's installation to be delayed pending a review of the appointment.
The 32-year OPP veteran and the only deputy commissioner to apply for the top job also makes serious allegations against Ford's chief of staff, Dean French, in his submission to Dubé.
He alleges French specifically requested that the OPP purchase a "large camper type vehicle" that could be modified to certain specifications and that the request be "kept off the books."
The RV was to be customized to the premier's specifications with the work done by a company allegedly chosen by Ford's top aide via a "sole source" contract.
Blair's letter maintained that asking for "monies spent to be hidden from the public record" is a violation of the Ontario government's financial policies.
The premier's office has not responded to numerous requests from the Star over the past two days seeking comment about those specific allegations.
Liberal MPP Marie-France Lalonde, solicitor general until the Liberals lose the June 7 election, said she was stunned at the alleged demand for a vehicle.
"Honestly? Wow," said Lalonde (Orleans), adding "the appearance of collusion is significantly important."
Blair's letter says Taverner's appointment raises "a legitimate question as to whether the OPP's integrity has been compromised and whether the public can have confidence in and respect for the OPP going forward."
The acting commissioner's lawyer said Blair came forward with the explosive complaint "amidst a growing sea of controversy."
Julian Falconer said the officer spoke out because of his belief the OPP "is an organization whose credibility is worth protecting."
Blair, who was appointed to his post by the Conservative government via an October order in council, knows his decision to question the hiring process of his successor means he will "now be under no minor light of scrutiny," the lawyer said.
In his letter, he states he was viewed by members of the OPP as a "front-runner candidate" for the full-time post.
He maintains the decision to name Taverner as commissioner was made prior to the Nov. 29 cabinet meeting where the government has claimed it was reached; that the job posting was "changed without convincing justification;" and that the hiring panel had "questionable authority."
Blair's letter come after another former OPP commissioner, Chris Lewis, voiced his concerns about Taverner's hiring, telling CP24 that "the fix was in."
His complaint is not the first formal one to be levelled in the Taverner affair. Integrity Commissioner David Wake's office said a request for a probe into the Taverner appointment has been filed.
"I can confirm that a request has been made by MPP Kevin Yarde … and it is under review by this office. The office will have no further comment on the matter," said Wake's spokesperson Michelle Renaud, referring to the Brampton North NDP MPP's letter to the office.
After an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the Prince Edward Viaduct, Mayor John Tory was asked by reporters about the controversy swirling around Taverner.
Tory praised the superintendent's decades of service to Toronto as an "excellent" police officer, but welcomed a review of the process which led to Ford's cabinet choosing him to become OPP commissioner.
"I always think that if there are questions that rise in these kinds of appointment processes it is best in the interests of confidence in police and confidence in the overall process that those things should be looked into so the public can see there is either a reason to be concerned or there isn't."
With files from David Rider and Rob Fergusonhttps://www.thespec.com/news-story/9080 ... er-hiring/