Anonymous call to newspaper gets ‘Dave’ suspended from Toronto Mayor’s Office

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has insisted that calls placed to the weekly radio show he co-hosts with his brother are not planted.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, Coun. Doug Ford, were taking calls to their radio show for months from longtime friend and current staffer David Price, without apparently being able to recognize his voice.

Yet it took the Toronto Sun's Don Peat only a few seconds before he managed to ID the serial anonymous caller.

Price was suspended from Ford's office after placing a call to the Sun's city hall reporter on Tuesday, to complain about the headline of a story.

The story in question was related to the revelation that Price had appeared on the Ford's Sunday morning radio program a number of times, always anonymously trumpeting Ford's agenda and personal successes.

CBC News first reported the instances, saying Price was told to stop calling when he joined the mayor's staff. The Sun reports that, in response to their own coverage, Price called the newspaper from a blocked number.

[ Related: Rob Ford staffer 'Dave' suspended after phone call ]

When Peat asked if it was Price on the phone, he laughed.

From the Sun (audio available):

When asked if he said he was “Dave from Scarborough” when he called the radio station, Price said “no.”

Price was then asked to clarify what happened.

“What do you mean what happened?” he asked.

“Number one it wasn’t me and all I’m asking you to do is correct the headline.”

The Sun then asked Price if he was denying he made the calls to the mayor’s show.

“Yeah, anyway, just the headline’s wrong — that’s all I’ve got to say,” he said before hanging up.

After hearing a recording of the conversation, Peat reports that Ford apologized on behalf of his staff and later suspended Price for a week without pay.

Price, a longtime friend of the Ford family, has been described as the mayor’s former football coach and helped on his 2010 election campaign, before joining his office staff earlier this year.

Ford told reporters on Wednesday that he would not comment on personnel issues. "Dave is a very hard worker. We all make mistakes. He had made a mistake and that's it," he said.

[ More Brew: Canadians still prefer driving to work, survey finds ]'s Marc Weisblott makes a compelling argument about the relevancy (or lack thereof) of a friend and political ally placing partisan phone calls to a talk radio program. Considering it happens all the time, should it not be considered fair game?

"[T]he initial CBC story also read like an attempt to stir more Ford scandal out of thin air. Commercial talk radio shows have historically featured callers that aren’t contributing on a whim," he writes.

"Colleagues, friends or family of a host can be recruited to help move a topic along. And people looking to boost a partisan viewpoint frequently strive to get on the air."

It does appear the Fords aren't too thrilled with this whole incident. Doug Ford told the Globe and Mail he didn't recognize his friend's voice in the calls to the radio program. Once Price told him he was making the calls, Ford said he told him to stop.

All this is to the credit of Don Peat. He was able to recognize Prices voice in a matter of seconds, while the Fords combined apparently couldn't place it after at least six phone calls and a lifetime of friendship.

If Price is to continue making anonymous phone calls, perhaps he should invest in a Darth Vader-style voice modulator.