Brad Blair speaks publicly for first time on legal battles with Doug Ford
A sometimes tearful Brad Blair spoke publicly for the first time Friday about the ongoing legal battles and accusations from Premier Doug Ford, as he filed a new lawsuit and called for a public inquiry into Ford's patronage scandal.
"I was fired on March the 4th, 20 days shy of 33 years of service, for reasons that are still not clear to me," the former deputy OPP Commissioner said. "A firing that if left unchallenged puts every OPP officer at risk of suffering the same fate."
Blair and his lawyer Julian Falconer also announced they're launching a $15 million wrongful dismissal lawsuit against Ford and other top civil servants, on top of a previous $5 million libel suit.
Blair was fired in March, claiming it was because he brought up concerns about the hiring of Ron Taverner as OPP Commissioner, a longtime friend of Doug Ford.
Blair himself was also up for the job, or so he thought, alleging the deck was stacked against him in favour of Taverner.
Ford has previously called Blair's complaints "sour grapes" and that he broke the Police Services Act "numerous times" by writing to the Ombudsman about Taverner.
Blair dismissed the allegation.
"It's tough to lose a competition that you were never available to win," he said.
The posting for the commissioner's job went up on October 22nd, but shortly after, job requirements were lowered so more candidates could apply, including those like Taverner, a longtime superintendent with Toronto Police.
Blair was also appointed interim commissioner November 3rd, a decision, he now regrets.
"I most likely would have brought the evidence that I had that was brought to me as a deputy commissioner, I'd have taken it to the interim commissioner at the time said 'here's what I have, you're the commissioner, this is your issue,'" he said Friday.
Instead, Blair says senior OPP officials advised him about a request the premier had made for specifications for a security van, including wifi, a blue-ray player and leather furniture.
He denied seeking out the damaging details about the van.
On December 11th, Blair filed a complaint to the Ombudsman about his concerns over Taverner getting the job, which included his former boss at Toronto Police, being part of the three-person hiring panel.
Taverner would eventually go back to his role at Toronto Police and Blair also returned to his job as deputy commissioner.
Ford's public statements against Blair included however saying that he had "sour grapes" over not getting the job and said that he had broken the Police Services Act by revealing information about the van.
That's at the heart of a previous $5 million libel claim by Blair against Ford, says his lawyer Julian Falconer.
He points out despite the allegation, there was no investigation into Blair's actions.
"In 30 years, I have never seen or experienced public allegations of breaches of the Act against a police officer, by a public official that were not accompanied by any investigation whatsoever," he said.
After Taverner declined to go for the job again, Blair was eventually fired in March, calling it a shock that traumatized his family and compared it to the loss he felt when his father died.
His wife Danielle echoed that sentiment.
"I would say it's had life-changing impact," she said. "If you ever think about how you kind of conduct your life and the things that you believe and the things that you hold dear and then feeling like somebody's kicked a stool out from underneath of you."
It's because of the shock from the firing that Blair says they waited to speak publicly.
"We needed some separation from this issue, some time to collect ourselves," he said.
Falconer says the $15 million lawsuit goes beyond the earlier libel claim, and reflects an abuse of power by the Ontario Government and wrongful termination.
He hopes they are heard in court together.
In a statement Ford's office declined to respond.
"First, we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the tremendous work of the uniformed and civilian men and women of the OPP.
“Our government will continue to work with OPP Commissioner, Thomas Carrique, to support all the members of the OPP, especially on matters relating to mental health and supporting our front-line officers. We thank Commissioner Carrique for his leadership since assuming the post.
“As the Premier has said before, his concern is and always has been protecting and supporting the front-line officers who put their lives on the line every single day to protect our communities.
“As this matter is before the court it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”
Along with the lawsuits, Blair and Falconer said they are also urging for a public inquiry into the patronage scandal, which has seen multiple appointees leave their positions, after revelations of ties to Ford’s former chief of staff Dean French.
French eventually left his job amidst the scandal, although Ford has declined to confirm whether he was fired or if he left voluntarily.
“I do not expect that Premier Ford will do the right thing and hold a public inquiry into these matters, and that is why I call on the good people of this province to join me in demanding that an inquiry be held,” Blair said.