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Chief Blair accepts Doug Ford's apology, won't take legal action

Chief Bill Blair speaks at a news conference at Toronto police headquarters on Aug. 14, 2014. TORONTO POLICE VIDEO SERVICES

Toronto’s police chief accepted a written apology from Mayor Rob Ford’s brother on Thursday, after a public dispute over comments the chief called “false and slanderous.”

Chief Bill Blair had threatened legal action after Coun. Doug Ford publicly accused him of leaking information about an investigation involving the mayor as “payback.”

“It was important to me to get a retraction and apology in writing so that there could be no confusion among those who had heard or read about Mr. Ford’s false statements,” Blair said.

Doug Ford had suggested two weeks ago that Blair helped leak information, after a Toronto Star report cited sources saying police were preparing to subpoena the mayor to testify at a preliminary hearing for his friend Alexander (Sandro) Lisi, who is facing extortion charges.

Ford said that the leak was politically motivated.

“When you tell the media there’s a subpoena and don’t tell anyone else? That alone says it all right there. That says it all,” he had said at the time. “It’s disappointing that the police chief, in my opinion, would condone this behaviour from his own department.”

The public letter of apology and retraction comes three days after Blair filed a defamation notice against Ford.

The councillor verbally apologized on Wednesday in front of city hall media but Blair said his words didn’t meet the terms laid out in the notice.

“Mr. Ford began to retreat from his comments but failed to fully and completely acknowledge that his statements had been false and totally without foundation,” he said.

Ford wrote a letter to the chief on Thursday, saying that he wanted to dispel any suggestion Blair was personally involved with leaking information to the media.

“I completely and fully apologize to Chief Blair for any inference or suggestion in my comments that he has acted in a personally dishonourable way,” he wrote, calling the chief a “person of high integrity.”

Blair said that while criticism “comes with the turf” of being police chief, he felt he had to respond to Ford’s accusations.

“Lies that go to the heart of your integrity cannot be tolerated,” he said.

Blair said he launched an investigation into the matter, and the reporter involved said she learned about the subpoena from a “non-police source.”

“I accept that information from her at her word,” he said.

“I am therefore satisfied that no member of the Toronto Police Service compromised their integrity or their oath of office.”

The chief asked Ford to, in lieu of damages, donate $1,000 to Covenant House — the homeless youth shelter where Blair is a board member — and Ford agreed.

The mayor has repeatedly said the dispute doesn’t involve him but added Thursday morning that his brother was “sincere” in expressing his regrets.

Both Fords have publicly criticized Blair ever since a police investigation last year turned up a video which appeared to show Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.

At a news conference last October, Blair had said he was disappointed over what the video showed.

The mayor, who later admitted to smoking crack cocaine in a “drunken stupor,” has publicly accused Blair of wasting taxpayers’ money with the investigation and challenged the chief to arrest and charge him.

Thursday’s news conference was Blair’s first public appearance since the Toronto Police Services Board announced it wouldn’t renew his contract as he had hoped.

He said he was surprised his contract wasn’t renewed and he hasn’t considered what he will do next. He said he’d see his contract through to the end in April 2015.

“My responsibility is to manage the police service and to keep the City of Toronto safe,” Blair said.

“I’ve done my best.”

He dispelled any rumours he might run for office, saying, “I’m a cop.”

Read Doug Ford’s letter below.