TORONTO, Ont. – Mayor Rob Ford took the stand in a $6-million defamation lawsuit against him Friday.
Restaurant owner George Foulidis is alleging Ford libelled him when the mayor suggested a leasing deal between Foulidis’ company Tuggs Inc., awarded by the city, was corrupt.
City council extended a 20-year lease Foulidis had for his Boardwalk Cafe in a sole-sourced, untendered contract for another 20 years in summer 2010.
The University Avenue courthouse listened to an audio recording of an editorial board meeting with the Toronto Sun. Foulidis is suing Ford for remarks he made during that meeting.
“These in-camera meetings, there’s more corruption and skulduggery going on in there than I’ve ever seen in my life,” Ford told the editorial board in 2010. “And if Tuggs isn’t then I don’t know what is.”
Foulidis alleges that Ford’s remarks about the deal defamed him because he is behind Tuggs and the owner/operator of the Boardwalk Cafe.
Read a re-cap of live coverage by 680News and CityNews reporters covering the trial:
Ford testified that when he suggested the deal was corrupt he was suggesting proper processes were not followed.
Foulidis’ lawyer appeared to be frustrated by Ford’s response. Eventually, the judge stepped in, asking the mayor to provide a clear answer.
Ford later agreed that he was suggesting the Tuggs deal was corrupt but he had no proof. When asked whether he thought Foulidis was corrupt, Ford said he did not know the man.
Ford’s lawyer said that the mayor was talking about Foulidis’ business and companies cannot be defamed.
The mayor has suggested the lawsuit is politically motivated.
Outside the courthouse, Foulidis appeared tired and declined to comment on Ford’s testimony.
“It’s been a long day. I’m not going to comment on the mayor,” he said.
“I can’t comment on the testimony but we’re happy the trial is over.”
During his final hour of cross-examination Thursday, Foulidis told Ford’s lawyer that a politician “should not be allowed to call a private citizen corrupt unless he has some evidence to back it up.”
“All I wanted to do was to renegotiate my lease,” he added.
The second defendant, former real estate agent Bruce Baker, took the stand on Thursday. He is facing a $100,000 lawsuit filed by Foulidis for slander.
Baker was running during the municipal election in 2010 as a candidate for Ward 32. He had written a letter to city council asking the police to investigate the lease deal between Foulidis’ company and the city, while allegedly calling Foulidis “a crook.”
On Thursday, Ford left court early so he could be on time for Don Bosco’s game at Birchmount Stadium. The team was in the quarterfinal of the Metro Bowl.
The court case began on Tuesday, and was originally expected to last only four days.
The trial is scheduled to conclude Monday with final arguments.