The US website Gawker has passed the target $200,000 needed to purchase a video of Toronto's mayor Rob Ford allegedly smoking crack cocaine as a chaotic political scene continued to unfold in the city .
The person offering the video appears to have vanished - and Ford himself insists it doesn't exist.
But questions over Ford's ability to hang on to office grew as Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, Ford’s top ally on the council, said he believed that a reporter DID see a video of the mayor allegedly smoking crack cocaine.
"There’s no video, so that’s all I can say,” Ford insisted in a broadcast. On air he called journalists "maggots" although he later apologised at a press conference. Two of his press team have resigned - and he wished them well.
Even more startling, Ford’s former chief of staff, Mark Towhey, since fired, is said to have told police that another of the mayor’s staffers was trying to obtain the crack video, sources have told the Toronto Star.
Shortly after news of the supposed video broke on May 16, top aides began discussing the situation, said the paper.
One of those aides was Ford’s logistics man and former high school football coach, David Price.
Price reportedly contacted chief of staff Towhey late on May 17 and asked “hypothetically” what if someone had told him where the video was. “What would we do?” Towhey was asked.
The Star says Towhey, a former military man and the most experienced official in Ford’s office, was alarmed at Price’s comments. Price went further and said, “What if a source has told me where the video might be found?”
Shocked, Towhey told Price that the only thing he would advise is going to the police.
Price also said supposedly that the video may have been the reason that Anthony Smith, a person pictured in a photo with Ford, was killed.
Towhey’s response, according to sources, was to tell Price that he would be contacting police.
Towhey called police, and went in to give a sworn statement. On May 18, Price contacted him and passed on the apartment numbers of a building in Rexdale where Price said his “sources” had told him the video might be found. Price did not identify his sources.
When Towhey went to the police he did not inform his boss, Mayor Ford. He gave a statement, identifying Price as the originator of this information. Price was later asked to give a statement.
The Star said it had been been unable to reach Price but will continue to try and will pose questions to him regarding this matter.
Towhey, since dismisssed by Ford, refused to comment when reached by the Star.
Police have confirmed to the Star that the interview with Towhey took place and the probe is continuing.
Ford has not responded to written questions about this matter, said the paper.
The discussions among Ford’s aides started as soon as the Star and the Gawker website published accounts detailing the video seen by two Star reporters and the editor of Gawker.
The Star reporters have described seeing a video showing an incoherent and rambling Ford smoking what appears to be a crack pipe and making homophobic and racially charged statements. The reporters were shown the video by a man who said he shot it on an iPhone.
The man who approached the Star with the video indicated there is more than one copy. The Star says it not able to verify that.
The reporters watched the video three times in a car parked near a Rexdale apartment complex.
After from Towhey being fired, two communication officials,at the mayor's office have resigned: George Christopoulos and Isaac Ransom, resigned.
Mayor Ford has called the allegations “ridiculous.” Both the mayor and his brother Doug are said to have told Towhey that no video existed.