TORONTO – An American sheriff who has just charged a town mayor with drug offences said Wednesday it’s a head-scratcher why the continent’s most notorious crack smoker, Rob Ford, is still in office.
Gordon Smith, a self-described politically incorrect sheriff from Bradford County in Florida, said he’s watched the Ford situation unfold with amazement.
“He’s so flamboyant, he’s out there, he’s kind of smearing it in Torontonians faces, saying, ‘What are you going to do?'” Smith told The Canadian Press from Starke, Fla.
“He is the face of Toronto, and that’s all you see plastered in the news media and people are going, ‘What the heck?'”
In a statement announcing Monday’s arrest of Mayor Barry Moore of Hampton, Fla., population 500, Smith said he wouldn’t put up with illicit drug activity, regardless of who is involved.
“This isn’t Toronto,” he said.
“We will not tolerate illegal drug activity in my jurisdiction by anyone, to include our elected officials.”
Investigators in Toronto have said they had recovered a video that apparently shows Ford smoking crack cocaine, but said they didn’t have enough evidence to warrant an arrest.
Chief Bill Blair has said Ford received no special treatment, and police would charge him if there were reasonable and probable grounds to do so.
Smith said he sympathized with Blair.
“I truly believe if they had enough to put (Ford) in jail, they would already have him in jail,” Smith said.
Still, the sheriff said he believed it was only a matter of time before Ford, who has admitted to buying illegal drugs and smoking crack cocaine in a drunken stupor, is charged or ousted.
“A guy like that, he’ll catch hisself,” he said.
On Monday, Florida police charged Moore with possessing and selling Oxycodone, the first arrest of an elected official under Smith’s watch.
Police had video and audio recordings to back the arrest, said Smith, who agreed the Ford “crack video” would by itself not be enough in his state for charges.
Ford has repeatedly apologized for his conduct, which also included using crude sexual language in public, but has strenuously denied being an alcoholic or junkie.
Smith, who has been in law enforcement for 27 years, has his doubts.
“You just don’t quit smoking crack cocaine,” Smith said. “You don’t just get drunk and say, ‘I’m going to pick up a crack pipe’.”
While council has stripped Ford of most of his powers, it does not have the authority to actually suspend or force him from office, as the governor of Florida could do in the Moore case.
Ford himself has been adamant he won’t step down, despite the adverse publicity that has garnered international attention and mockery.
Smith said the mayor should quit.
“In a case like that that’s so outrageous, so demeaning, and he represents the populace of Toronto, he’s just got to do the right thing,” Smith said.
“Be a man, do the right thing and move on with life.”