Ford’s former chief of staff Dean French parts ways with the PC re-election campaign

Ford’s former chief of staff Dean French parts ways with the PC re-election campaign

Premier Doug Ford’s former chief of staff, Dean French — who “resigned” after a patronage scandal — has now parted ways with the Progressive Conservative re-election campaign, the Star has learned.

French embarrassed Ford by trying to install his wife’s cousin and his son’s friend in six-figure overseas government postings on Thursday.

Eighteen hours later, the premier revoked the appointments and, on Friday night, the embattled chief stepped down.

The cronyism fiasco continues to roil the Tories, who are distancing themselves from French.

“Mr. French is no longer part of the election readiness committee. He has returned to the private sector,” Marcus Mattinson, the Ontario PC Party director of communications, said Monday.

But Tory staffers were stunned when French showed up for work Monday despite his resignation.

“He’s in the building right now,” a startled PC insider told the Star.

French allegedly “read the Riot Act to all (premier’s office) staff and then in a separate meeting with chiefs,” said the source, speaking confidentially in order to discuss internal discussions.

“The implied threat was make no mistake I still control things,” the insider said.

Another high-ranking Tory said the situation in the premier’s office continues to be chaotic.

“When you leave a job under a cloud you’re kind of supposed to stay away,” said the insider.

Ford’s office played down his return.

“Dean French came to Queen’s Park this morning to pack up his office. He said good-bye to staff, thanked them for their hard work and continued service to the premier and the people of Ontario,” the premier’s office said Monday.

“Dean French is returning to the private sector.”

French, an Etobicoke insurance broker, quit Friday after two cabinet ministers — one female, the other male — urged Ford to fire him.

“They told Doug: ‘It is time for Dean to go,’ ” a senior PC insider said Friday.

Ford got the message and his office said he has “accepted the resignation.”

“I want personally to thank Dean for his hard work, his leadership and his friendship. I wish Dean the very best in his future,” the premier said in a statement Friday night.

Deputy chief Jamie Wallace — a former Queen’s Park press gallery president and well-regarded political veteran who used to be the top editor at the Sun chain of tabloids — is interim chief until a permanent replacement is found.

French caused a litany of headaches for his boss.

Tyler Albrecht, a friend of French’s son, is not headed to New York as an “agent-general” and Taylor Shields, a cousin of French’s wife, isn’t taking up a similar role in London, England.

Offensive postings on Albrecht’s Facebook account, which date back to 2012 when he was a teenager, have also surfaced. They include the words “fag” and “no homo.”

The social media posts were scrubbed Thursday as his appointment was being announced, but frame-grabs captured them.

After axing the two French connections, Ford’s office denounced the Facebook postings.

Neither Albrecht nor Shields have returned repeated messages from the Star seeking comment.

French has also been unavailable.

Ford was caught off-guard by the two French appointees, although two others are known to the premier.

Former PC party president Jag Badwal, a realtor, will represent the province in Dallas, Texas, and Earl Provost, a former Ontario Liberal party executive director and chief of staff to the late Rob Ford when he was Toronto mayor, is being dispatched to Chicago.

The premier was furious that the French patronage appointments overshadowed Thursday’s sweeping cabinet shuffle that was designed to reboot a sputtering government.

Twelve ministers were moved — including replacing Vic Fedeli with Rod Phillips as finance minister — and six new portfolios created, as cabinet increased by 33 per cent to 28 members, including Ford.

As the Star reported two weeks ago, PC MPPs have privately complained to the premier about a “culture of fear” caused by the ex-chief.

That came after French loudly scolded a female MPP on June 6 outside an airport hotel in front of the premier, other members, and PC staffers during a caucus meeting.

The rookie GTA MPP broke down in tears and was inconsolable for five minutes, leading Ford to assure MPPs the next day that they “should be treated with respect.”

Ford’s office confirmed the incident and said French went to the MPP and “apologized and they had an excellent conversation.”

French is also suing Independent MPP Randy Hillier for defamation, and seeking $100,000 in a damages, over a series of tweets accusing the chief of illegally destroying ballots in the PC leadership race last year

In his statement of defence Hillier (Lanark-Frotenac-Kingston) has said French is a “mercurial” man waging a “personal vendetta” against him.

The veteran MPP was ejected from the PC caucus in March after complaining to Ford about French.

Last November, the ex-chief ordered senior aides to direct police to raid illegal cannabis stores, the day before marijuana became legal, wanting to see “people in handcuffs.”

Staff balked at the order, with one of them noting: “we’re not a police state. We don’t have the right or the ability to direct police to do anything.”

Agents-general earn up to $185,000 a year to promote Ontario business in the U.S. and Britain.

Albrecht, who graduated from university three years ago, was to be Ontario’s representative in New York while Shields, an assistant vice-president at Chubb Insurance, was set to go to London, England.

The three-year appointments pay $164,910 (Canadian) annually in the U.S., and $185,000 per year in the U.K.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzieKristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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