POLITICS

Brian Johnston, Kia Nejatian Quit: Rob Ford Loses 2 More Staffers

05/30/2013 01:38 EDT | Updated 05/30/2013 07:07 EDT

Brian Johnston, policy advisor to embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, and Kia Nejatian, the mayor's executive assistant, have quit.

Five members of the mayor's staff have now left since Ford was accused of being caught on tape smoking crack cocaine.

Ford's spokesman, George Christopoulos, and deputy press secretary Isaac Ransom resigned on Monday while the mayor's former chief of staff, Mark Towhey, was fired last week.

Johnston told reporters that he left on his own accord.

"The timing was right for me," he said.

Towhey tweeted out his support soon after the resignations: "Kia @kianejatian and Brian @BJohnston42 are both exceptional young pros with great integrity. I was privileged to work with both of them."

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne waded again into the controversy, giving the strongest indication yet that the provincial government might intervene.

“The mayor needs to deal with his personal issues,” Wynne told reporters, noting the scandal was interfering with work at City Hall and not helping with Toronto’s reputation.

"I will take action if and when it is appropriate," she added, according to reporters with Wynne.

Under provincial law, municipalities are creatures of the province and have broad jurisdiction over them. As some have noted, Ontario’s Municipal Act gives the government the power to impose limits and conditions on a city for a variety of reasons.

Ford's office released a statement Thursday afternoon:

Effective immediately, Brian Johnston and Kia Nejatian are no longer employed in the Office of the Mayor.

The Mayor wants to thank both Brian and Kia for their service and hard work. He wishes them all the best in their future endeavours.

The Mayor encourages staff to pursue new opportunities when they arise.

The Mayor looks forward to welcoming new staff members, who will help contribute to his priorities and the ongoing work of the Mayor's Office.

The resignations come on the same day the Toronto Star reported Ford had told senior aides that he knew the location of a video allegedly showing him smoking crack cocaine. Ford earlier denied the video exists.

More from The Canadian Press

In a similar pattern to when former chief of staff Mark Towhey was escorted out of city hall, another aide, policy adviser Brian Johnston, left under escort Thursday.

Johnston told reporters in the basement garage he had resigned because "the timing was right."

Ford's executive assistant, Kia Nejatian, also left the mayor's office early Thursday although the circumstances were not immediately clear.

Earlier in the day, Ford elbowed his way through a crush of media as he entered city hall. As reporters attempted to get him to respond, he said only "move!" as he pushed into his office.

In a sign of the tension outside the mayor's "fishbowl" office, every glimpse of the mayor was accompanied by the clacking roar of camera shutters.

At one point, reporters rushed after a Ford aide thinking he had been fired. He was only going to the washroom.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. website Gawker and the Star said they had seen cellphone video made by a drug dealer that apparently showed Ford smoking crack cocaine.

The reports have not been independently verified and the Star itself has said it could not vouch for its authenticity. Gawker has raised $200,000 to try to buy the video.

According to latest Star report, sources said Ford told alarmed senior aides a day after the scandal erupted that he knew where the video was, and named apartments at a west-end complex.

Still, Ford insisted it was business as usual.

"I emphasize, and I assure you, that the work is being done, phone calls are being returned, emails are being responded to."

But unhappy councillors said the scandal has disrupted business at city hall.

Coun. James Pasternak expressed dismay at how Ford has refused to address the allegations in a substantive fashion.

"We're looking for unequivocal statements from the mayor," Pasternak said. "The ducking and weaving and waffling just won't work around here."

Pasternak said the circus that has surrounded Ford is a damaging distraction that gets worse with each passing day.

Under current provincial law, a person may be disqualified from holding office if imprisoned, or an office may be declared vacant in a judicial proceeding.

Premier Kathleen Wynne expressed concern Toronto residents were losing confidence in their municipal leaders.

"The mayor needs to deal with his personal issues," Wynne said. "The lack of having dealt with them is creating a lot of that confusion."

"The premier should take care of the problems she has at Queen's Park right now," Ford shot back.

Meanwhile, police said a second arrest had been made in the March killing of a Toronto man believed to be seen with Ford in a photo linked to the crack video scandal.

Police said Hanad Mohamed, 23, was arrested last week in Fort McMurray, Alta., in the death of Anthony Smith and was to appear in court in Toronto on Friday charged with first-degree murder.

Nisar Hashimi, 23, was arrested in April and also faces first-degree murder charges in Smith's death.

Ford has said he is photographed with many people and doesn't know them all.

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