Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says using city owned cellphones for volunteer work is justifiable because the public is being served.

Amid allegations in a newspaper report that Ford is using office staff to support his various youth football teams, the mayor was asked Wednesday whether it was permissible for staff to use city cellphones while out volunteering.

"Absolutely, if they’re helping people out, they’re serving the taxpayers," Ford told Toronto’s Citytv.

While the mayor said "some people" would disagree with that, Ford said his staff "even on their own private time they are using their phones on volunteer things, on city business."

A report in Wednesday's Globe and Mail alleges that at least two special assistants in Ford's office used their city-supplied cellphones to keep in contact with the football players.

The special assistants, Chris Fickel and Isaac Shirokoff, "are listed as contacts on the official Facebook page for Mr. Ford’s Rexdale Raiders, whose varsity and junior varsity squads play summer football in the Ontario Minor Football League," the paper reports.

It says a city official confirmed the numbers are for "city-issued, taxpayer-funded cellphones."

Shirokoff has recently left the mayor's office to attend graduate school.

Another former football player has recently been hired by Ford and has been seen helping out at football practice.

Formal response

Ford also issued a statement Wednesday, saying critics assailing him for his intense involvement in football coaching should steer clear of making similar attacks on his staff.

"I'm okay if councillors want to criticize me for helping kids. That's their right," he said in a statement released Wednesday.

"I'm a big guy and I can take it. However, councillors should not be criticizing my staff. Each and every one of them works hard every day for the taxpayers of this great city. They put in at least 40 hours of work for taxpayers every week. Often more."

The mayor also said that “only a coward would criticize my staff.”

Several councillors who spoke with CBC News on Wednesday said city resources shouldn’t be used for private pursuits, such as coaching a football team.

"It’s inappropriate if city resources were used for extracurricular activities like that and if their city time was used," Coun. Mike Layton said.

However, he added, there is nothing wrong with city staff volunteering on their own time.

Coun. Janet Davis said the mayor needs to consider his priorities.

"Mayor Ford was elected to be the mayor of Toronto, not a football coach," she said Wednesday. "If the staff who work in the mayor’s office are employees of the City of Toronto, they are not assistant coaches."

'Unprecedented' attention on mayor

Coun. Doug Ford defended his brother on Wednesday in the face of the latest criticism relating to his football commitments.

"It's incredible the way the media pounces on a guy that gives back," he told CBC News. "I think the media should focus on all the great work he's done with youth rather than just targeting him on this constantly."

Ford called the media attention on his brother "unprecedented."

Doug Ford did not deny that the staffers volunteer with the mayor's Rexdale Raiders summer league teams and the Don Bosco Eagles, but said the staffers are not doing anything wrong.

"As for his staff … his staff starts at 7:30 in the morning. They work their 40 hours for the city. Rob has thrown out: 'If you want to volunteer with youth you can come and help me. If you want to volunteer with youth in a different capacity, go and do it.' But to say that he's using tax dollars is absolutely ridiculous."

Earlier this week, the mayor was criticized for missing more than five hours of his executive council meeting so he could coach one of his football teams. Some city councillors have termed him a part-time mayor for his actions.

"This is a man who volunteers his time and gives back to youth, mentors 400 kids a year. There's not a politician in the country that mentors that many kids," Doug Ford said in his brother's defence.

Full statement by Mayor Rob Ford

It is no secret Mayor Rob Ford is passionate about football. He remains committed to supporting and creating opportunities for youth to better enhance their health, fitness and future prospects.

The Mayor's job is 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. Despite this, Mayor Ford also volunteers hundreds of hours each year as a youth football coach and for other worthy causes.

"I'm okay if Councillors want to criticize me for helping kids. That's their right," said Mayor Rob Ford. "I'm a big guy and I can take it. However, Councillors should not be criticizing my staff. Each and every one of them works hard every day for the taxpayers of this great city. They put in at least 40 hours of work for taxpayers every week. Often more."

"Only a coward would criticize my staff. They can't defend themselves in the media against elected officials."

As Mayor of Toronto, Mayor Ford is accompanied by one or more of his staff members at most times, in order to assist him in his official duties. Staff in the Mayor's Office are selected for their jobs based on their skills, experience, education and commitment to making Toronto a better city.

The Mayor is a strong advocate for Toronto's volunteers. He volunteers himself and actively encourages others to do so. Paid work is not the only type of work that contributes to our society. Thousands of Toronto residents volunteer their skills and efforts every day — it's part of what makes this a great city.

"This city wouldn't be the same without volunteers and I appreciate everything they do," said Mayor Ford.

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Don Peat

  • drewski

  • drewski

  • Josh Visser

  • Charles Johnston

  • Dave Scrivener

  • Dan Speerin

  • Kelvin

  • Ann Doose

  • Ben Greenberg

  • Jesse Hawken

  • Paul

  • Corey Herscu

  • Star Opinion

  • Diego...

  • Andrew Reeves

  • lucy paolino

  • Printha

  • Daniel Dale

  • John Michael McGrath

  • John Michael McGrath

  • CC

  • Stats Canada

  • Adrian Morrow

  • MISSISSAUGAWATCH

  • Andrea Addario

  • Kelly Grant

  • Kelly Grant


Loading Slideshow...
  • Toronto Rob Ford, right, gestures to Councillor Paul Ainslee in the council chamber as councillors look to pass motions to limit his powers in Toronto on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. Blasting what he called a "coup d'etat," Ford said voters should be able to pass judgment on him, not his fellow councillors.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (centre) dances with participants ahead of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival in Toronto on Saturday July 30, 2011.

  • Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford, left, celebrates after defeating wrestler Hulk Hogan in an arm-wrestling match to promote Fan Expo in Toronto on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 .

  • Twenty-two month-old Micah MacMilan reacts as he is picked up by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford while Ford was signing bobblehead dolls in his likeness at City Hall in Toronto on Tuesday November 12, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford holds up a replica Grey Cup as he attends the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats CFL Eastern Conference final football game in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford laughs with fans as he attends the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats CFL Eastern Conference final football game in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Ford showed up at Sunday's Canadian Football League playoff game, despite a request by the league's commissioner that he stay away.

  • Canadian recording artist Drake, left, and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford laugh at a news conference announcing that Toronto will host the 2016 NBA All-Star game, in Toronto, Monday, Sept. 30, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford displays a milk moustache as he takes part in voting with city council members in Toronto on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford watches from the sidelines near the Argos bench during a CFL football game between the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders in Calgary on Saturday, August 18, 2012.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford poses for photographs inside a giant shark mouth while attending the grand opening of the Ripley's Aquarium of Canada in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. After two years of construction, delays and (Canadian) $130 million in costs, Ripley's Aquarium of Canada opened to the public Wednesday.

  • City of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford poses for a photo opportunity with other dignitaries in a shark's jaws at the opening of Ripley's Aquarium of Canada in Toronto on Wednesday, October 16, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is hoisted into the air by his Don Bosco Eagles team after winning the Metro Bowl quarter-final at Birchmount Park in Toronto, Thursday Nov. 15, 2012. A civil trial hearing in which the mayor is accused of libel against a restaurant owner went on without him.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (center) smiles as he officially opens the refurbished Sunnydale rink with Toronto Maple Leafs' coach Ron Wilson (right) and other dignitaries who were on hand as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs who practiced on the outdoor rink in Toronto on Wednesday, January 4, 2012.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford grabs the Grey Cup by the handles during a parade celebrating the Toronto Argonauts victory in the Grey Cup final in Toronto on Tuesday November 27, 2012 .

  • Rob Ford Meets Butter Rob Ford

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/31/rob-ford-butter-sculpture-ex-cne_n_1846616.html" target="_hplink">Toronto Mayor Rob Ford comes face to face with a butter sculpture of himself at the Canadian National Exhibition</a>.

  • Butter Rob Ford

    As part of an exhibition at the CNE, Toronto-based artist Olenka Kleban has made a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/24/butter-rob-ford-sculpture_n_1828527.html" target="_hplink">butter sculpture of Toronto's mayor</a>.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford hoists the Grey Cup on stage with Toronto Argonauts players while celebrating the team's Grey Cup victory in downtown Toronto on Tuesday, Nov.27, 2012.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford stands at the door to his office as he waits for an elevator in Toronto on Thursday November 14, 2013.

  • Mayor Rob Ford speaks at city council in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013.

  • Nov. 13 2013. Toronto mayor Rob Ford during the afternoon session as councillors continued to debate a motion asking mayor Rob Ford to apologize to Torontonians for misleading therm about his use of crack cocaine.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford speaks to his Don Bosco Eagles team during the Metro Bowl quarter-final at Birchmount Park in Toronto, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012.

  • In this Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 file photo, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford holds a bobblehead doll depicting him at Toronto City Hall. An electoral map of the 2010 mayoral election shows that Ford's voter base resides mainly in a more conservative constituency than the downtown electorate.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (left) and city councillor Michelle Berardinetti (right) smile on stage during a performance of the Nutcracker in Toronto on Saturday, December 10, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit)

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford jumps on stage dressed as a Cannon Doll during a performance of the Nutcracker in Toronto on Saturday, December 10, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit)

  • Rob Ford's ballet debut

    Toronto Mayor Rob Ford acts on stage dressed as a Cannon Doll during a performance of the Nutcracker in Toronto on Saturday, December 10, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit)

  • City of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses the media outside office in Toronto on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, after the release of a video. A new video surfaced showing Ford in a rage, using threatening words including "kill" and "murder."

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford emerges from his office holding slices of a birthday cake to offer to members of the media at city hall in Toronto on Tuesday May 28, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford arrives at City Hall in Toronto amid allegations of crack cocaine use on Friday May 17, 2013, in Toronto. Published reports say a video appears to show Ford smoking crack cocaine. Ford called the allegations ridiculous.

  • Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford watches players from Don Bosco Eagles, the High School team he coaches, warm up before they compete against the Huron Heights Warriors in the Metro Cup in Toronto on Tuesday November 27, 2012 Those whose antics threaten to besmirch the party name normally don't get a second chance with Canada's federal Conservatives. Not so, it would seem, for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford carries the Pan American games flag in Omnilife Stadium during the closing ceremonies of the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. Toronto will host the games in 2015.

  • Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford reacts after Don Bosco Eagles, the High School team he coaches, lost 28-14 to Huron Heights Warriors in the Metro Cup in Toronto on Tuesday November 27, 2012.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford talks to a staff member at city hall in Toronto on Wednesday November 6, 2013.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses reporters at City Hall in Toronto on Tuesday November 27, 2012.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford briefly takes the stage to greet the crowd as part of the New Years Eve celebrations at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on Monday, December 31, 2012.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford sits on the back of Chicago's First Lady as he takes in an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012. Ford was visiting the city on a Toronto-Chicago Business Mission.

  • <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/21/rob-ford-fall-gif-video_n_2170653.html">Rob Ford was at an event to promote the Grey Cup when he fell while hamming it up for the press. A GIF of the fall went viral on the Internet</a>.

  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, makes a light hearted comment as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford laughs during the signing of a new "sister cities" declaration Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, in Chicago.

  • Toronto Mayor-elect Rob Ford, centre, raises his arms with his wife Renata, right, and mother Diane, left, as he speaks to supporters in Toronto on Monday, October 25, 2010.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, top right, waves to photographers during a boat tour with members of the Toronto-Chicago Business Mission on the Chicago River waterfront Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, in Chicago.

  • Dave Chappelle And Rob Ford

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/22/dave-chappelle-rob-ford_n_1822240.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics" target="_hplink">Comedian Dave Chappelle met briefly with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford</a> on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012

  • <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/14/rob-ford-reading-driving-car-gardiner_n_1776183.html" target="_hplink">Rob Ford is seen reading while driving</a> in this photo from Twitter.

  • <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/07/30/rob-ford-will-ferrell-zach-galifianakis-sketch_n_1719420.html" target="_hplink">Rob Ford meets with comedic actors Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis</a>.