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Witness backs mayor who denies groping, inappropriate comments

Former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson says Mayor Rob Ford made inappropriate comments and grabbed her “ass” at a gala event Thursday night. But Ford staunchly denied the allegations, and now a witness has come forward backing him.

In an exclusive interview with CityNews, Jordan Falkenstein said he was waiting to have his photo taken with Ford at the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) event, when Thomson budded in line to have her picture taken with the mayor. He said Thomson requested a second photo after she didn’t like the first one.

Falkenstein said he was right beside them during the encounter and could overhear their conversation.

“She made a statement about his trip to Florida and he said jokingly, ‘You should have come with us.’ She laughed as if she enjoyed it,” Falkenstein said.

Falkenstein didn’t see any inappropriate touching, despite Thomson’s claim to CityNews that the mayor “grabbed my ass.”

“I did not see that,” Falkenstein added. “His hands were on her shoulder or arm…It doesn’t add up, that’s not what I saw, that’s not what was going on and I dare to say it was a (Thomson) publicity stunt.”

Falkenstein wouldn’t say if he was a Ford supporter or not, but said he works part-time for Coun. James Pasternak, who has at times been described by media as a Ford ally.

Falkenstein said he contacted the mayor’s office, offering to refute Thomson’s account after seeing media reports about the allegations.

Ford released a statement denying that he made inappropriate comments and groped Thomson during the political fundraising event at Arcadian Court in downtown Toronto.

“Early this morning, false allegations were made regarding a number of disgusting actions,” Ford said. “I am shocked, dismayed and surprised. I can say without hesitation that they are absolutely, completely false.”

The issue surfaced when Thomson posted a Facebook photo of herself and the mayor from the (CJPAC) event saying, “Thought it was a friendly hello to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford at the CJPAC Action Party tonight until he suggested I should have been in Florida with him last week because his wife wasn’t there. Seriously wanted to punch him in the face. Happy International Women’s Day!”

She also alleged the mayor was “completely out of it.”

Falkenstein said Ford was “sweaty” because the room was crowded and hot, but he appeared sober. Ford’s chief of staff Mark Towhey said Ford drank only water at the event.

“He didn’t drink anything that night except three or four glasses of water and a bottle of water that I brought him,” Towhey told a local radio station.

Thomson added at a media scrum outside city hall on Friday morning that she told a police officer who was at the party about the incident but declined to press charges.

Last week, Ford was seen at Pearson International Airport with his wife and children. The entire family was heading to Florida. He spoke to CityNews briefly at the airport, saying he was taking the “little ones” to Walt Disney World.

This is the latest controversy to hit the mayor since taking office in 2010. Among the issues: he was photographed driving while reading on the Gardiner Expressway; called the police on comedian Mary Walsh who approached him outside his house; allegedly threatened a Toronto Star reporter who also was near his home; drove past the opened door of a TTC streetcar and was involved in three court cases.

Ford was victorious in all three court cases, including allegations that he violated campaign finance rules by accepting a loan from the family company.

Allegations against Thomson

Richmond Hill Coun. Greg Beros, who was at the CJPAC event, told CityNews on Friday that he overheard Thomson say to her executive assistant, “We need to go upstairs. We need to see if we can’t get a picture of the mayor’s hand rubbing up against your butt. This would be great for a campaign.”

“I looked at her and said ‘Sarah with all due respect I don’t think that’s a very good idea. I don’t think you should do that.’”

Beros said they went their separate ways after that and didn’t hear about her allegations until Friday.

He also said he hasn’t contacted the mayor.

Thomson told CityNews’ Tom Hayes later on Friday, “How do you set up a mayor to grab your ass? No.”

“We were telling people what [Ford] had done and someone said ‘you need to get proof.’ And I said, ‘I wish I had proof.’”

“How could I have planned for him to grab my ass? I can’t make him do that.”

Thomson said her executive assistant, also a woman named Sarah, approached Ford after the alleged incident to see if something similar would occur, but Ford behaved appropriately.

Meanwhile, Omar Ha-Redeye, a Toronto lawyer who was also at the party, told CityNews that Thomson told him about the incident immediately after it occurred.

“She did indicate to me that Ford grabbed her ass,” Ha-Redeye said in a phone interview, adding that he didn’t see the alleged incident himself.

Jonathan Scott  – another attendee – described Ford as “gregarious” and the life of the party at the event.

Even with political heavyweights like Premier Kathleen Wynne and MP Justin Trudeau in attendance, party-goers were flocking to Ford, Scott said during an interview.

Scott did not see Ford and Thomson together.

Thomson, who ran against Ford in the 2010 mayoral election, said she works with Ford professionally.

“I’ve defended Rob Ford and that’s why I’m so pissed off right now. I’ve stood up in meetings and I’ve defended him on Facebook…but you have to draw a line,” she told CityNews.

Thomson continued to post on Facebook after the photo went up, responding to other comments in a post : “I’ve never seen him so out of it. I know I shouldn’t be pissed but after spending 10 months on the campaign trail together you expect a little bit of respect at the very least for my husband.”

“Frederick [Thomson’s husband] guess where his hand was in this picture? I must go shower….”

To view Thomson’s Facebook page, click here.

With files from The Canadian Press

Statement from Mayor Rob Ford
 
Last night I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful event to support the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee.
 
This is an event that is attended by numerous political leaders and where I have been a guest in the past.  
 
Early this morning, false allegations were made regarding a number of disgusting actions.  I am shocked, dismayed and surprised.  I can say without hesitation that they are absolutely, completely false.  
 
What is more surprising is that a woman who has aspired to be a civic leader would cry wolf on a day where we should be celebrating women across the globe.  
 
This is a day we should all take the time to reflect upon the women in our lives and in our society.  It is a day when we can envision the changes we want to make in our communities to ensure that all people are equal and that violence and discrimination against women comes to an end.  

Slideshow of photos from the CJPAC event posted to social media:

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