Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fact #17: Ford Fest's free food and alcohol was provided by a nightclub lobbyist


It's true. Numerous media outlets reported that the food, drinks and supplies at Rob Ford's Ford Fest on July 5th, 2013 (and others) was provided by Muzik Nightclub. Muzik's owner is Zlatko Starkovski, a registered lobbyist with the City of Toronto (Registration #21995H). Starkovski and his wife donated $2,500 to Ford's 2010 election campaign.

Neither the Mayor's Office nor Muzik have responded to requests for clarification on whether the food and alcohol was provided free, at a discount or at full cost. Ford has never filed any details of Ford Fest with the City or claimed any expenses. Because the Ford Fests occurred outside of official campaign periods there is no record of who donated what.

Muzik has a long-term lease with the City at Exhibition Place, which was approved by Rob Ford's appointees to the Exhibition Place Board. Muzik recently led a successful effort to enforce their monopoly by banning all non-Muzik-hosted electronic dance events on Exhibition Place property.

Why should I care?

Oh, where to begin. Rob Ford is reported to be a personal friend of Starkovski and Ford is a regular patron of Muzik Nightclub, so on first glance it seems reasonable that Muzik would sponsor Ford's events. However, the nature of Musik's business relationship with the City makes their arrangement a clear conflict of interest.

The long-term non-competitive lease extension that Muzik recently negotiated with the city shares a number of similarities to the lease granted to the Boardwalk Pub. During the 2010 campaign, Ford was explicit in his criticism of the Boardwalk deal:
“Is someone getting money under the table?” Ford replied: “I truly believe they are, and that’s my personal opinion, and when I see all these donations, going through campaigns, it stinks to high heaven, we tried to re-open it, and they wouldn’t re-open it.” In an Aug. 12, 2010 Toronto Sun article Ford claimed the deal “smacks of civic corruption.”
Ford has refused to address any of the similar concerns with Muzik, nor has he elaborated on the nature of his relationship with Starkovski.

Of course, this is all a win-win for the interested parties. Ford gets to hang out with his buddy while patronizing one of the City's larger tenants. Starkovski's club gets regular visits from a bona fide clelbrity. And scantily-clad twenty-somethings get to experience their dream of taking a 3:00am selfie with a sweaty, overweight, crack-addled, 44-year-old married father of two.

How do I know you're not lying?

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