11/13/2013 08:00 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Rob Ford Documents: Growing Scandal Ensnares City Hall, Again


TORONTO - It could have been called the Rob Ford Reality Show, with a live audience in attendance.

As Toronto city council brought forward, debated and eventually passed a motion Wednesday asking the beleaguered mayor of Canada's largest city to step aside temporarily, the proceedings were marked by laughter, heckling and sporadic bursts of applause.

Cameras whirred, the public whispered and elected officials bickered as a dramatic scene played out at city hall and across video screens around the world.

"It's crazy," college student Kris Pangilinan said of his experience. "The way that the councillors are yelling at each other, calling each other names, it's just disgusting. Just like a kindergarten class."

Ford has been under fire for months ever since two media outlets reported they'd seen a video that appeared to show him smoking crack cocaine. After police announced they were in possession of what appeared to be the same video, Ford stunned observers last week by admitting he had smoked crack, probably in one of his "drunken stupors" about a year ago.

He drew another audible gasp from observers Wednesday during council debate when he admitted to buying illegal drugs while in office, later saying he "really effed up" but was not an addict.

The scandal surrounding the mayor took on new life later Wednesday with the release of previously withheld court documents that suggested people close to the mayor were concerned about his use of drugs, drunk driving and even the presence of suspected "prostitutes" in his office. The allegations have not been proven in court.

The entire episode in municipal politics could have passed for a high intensity television special, but it was excitingly real for the residents who crammed into the city hall to witness the action for themselves.

At one point, the sight of the mayor leaving his office caused a group of visiting young school children to yell "there he is," before running over to get a better view of the man. Other members of the public mingled with the media, listening in on interviews with council members and pulling out their phones to snap pictures.

Council chambers were filled to capacity as Ford was grilled by his fellow councillors, with observers standing at the top of the viewing gallery, craning their necks to get a view of the mayor. Security had to restrict access to the area at one point, with an overflow audience directed to the building's rotunda where the proceedings were shown on a big screen.

Through it all, the atmosphere was electric, with a rapt audience reacting to every moment.

As multiple councillors derided Ford for his personal issues, cheering erupted from the stands followed by a reminder from the speaker that applause wasn't allowed.

When Ford defended himself, he received a smattering of applause from a few ardent supporters who had turned out.

But when the mayor brought forward a motion asking for all councillors to undergo drug and alcohol testing, a mix of "boos," giggles and calls of "come on" broke out from the public.

Leslie Hacker was just one of many bystanders who joined in.

"I couldn't help myself. It was like, I can't listen to this happen and not have my voice heard," said Hacker, who had taken the day off work just to come to city hall. "I'm ashamed to be a citizen of Toronto for the first time in my life. I am so embarrassed."

Hacker said being physically part of a crowd which largely opposed the mayor helped ease some of her frustration with the negative attention Toronto has received recently.

"It was nice to finally come together with some other people including the councillors who think he should step down," she said.

Ford has repeatedly said he has no plans to step aside, despite the slew of calls for him to do so.

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