A high-ranking provincial police official who was fired after speaking out about a friend of the premier’s being appointed commissioner is vindicated now that Ron Taverner has withdrawn from the position, his lawyer said Thursday.
Taverner, a Toronto police superintendent and long-time friend of Premier Doug Ford, announced Wednesday evening that he will not take on the role given the controversy surrounding his appointment.
Former Ontario Provincial Police deputy commissioner Brad Blair, who was also a candidate for the top job, has asked the courts to force the provincial ombudsman to investigate the hiring, saying it raises concerns of political interference.
He was fired this week, but the government denies there was any political involvement, saying the public service made the decision because Blair released confidential OPP information through his court filings.
Blair has alleged his termination was an attempt to muzzle him. His lawyer, Julian Falconer, says the firing was “legally suspect.”
“Mr. Blair contests the legal validity of the termination of his employment as a sworn police officer of the OPP and he will seek full accountability and compensation for the actions leading to this termination,” Falconer said in a statement Thursday.
Following news that Ron Taverner has withdrawn his application for the OPP’s top spot, whistleblower & former deputy OPP commissioner Brad Blair who was fired this week, says he wants “full accountability & compensation” for his termination. @CityNews #onpoli pic.twitter.com/1BgztfHDAd
— Cristina Howorun (@CityCristinaH) March 7, 2019
Blair’s efforts have come with significant personal costs, Falconer said.
“Last night’s news vindicates Brad Blair’s unwavering resolve to protect the OPP from political interference,” he wrote. “It is sad in the extreme that the destruction of a good man’s career is the price to be paid for exposing political cronyism and abuse of power.”
Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner is looking at the circumstances around Taverner’s hiring, and Taverner had asked for his appointment to be delayed until that investigation was complete. The integrity office did not immediately respond to a question Thursday about the status of its probe.
Taverner, 72, rescinded his resignation from Toronto police and returned to his old job as unit commander of three divisions in the city’s northwest end.
He initially did not meet the criteria listed for the commissioner position and the government has admitted it lowered the requirements to attract a wider range of candidates.
Ford has previously described the job of OPP commissioner as a “political appointment,” but told the integrity commissioner in a December letter that he is not aware of any consultation with his office on the rank requirement change.
The premier told the integrity commissioner that his office was part of the initial recruitment planning process, and retained an external executive search firm to assist.
Blair has also threatened to sue Ford, alleging the premier damaged his reputation when he said Blair violated the Police Services Act by speaking out against Taverner’s hiring.