Recent grads face Ford fiasco

Alumni caught up in media storm surrounding Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

A number of Queen’s alumni are caught up in the drug scandal currently plaguing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Amin Massoudi, ArtSci ’10 and Ford’s current communications staffer, is directly involved in some of the latest allegations.

According to a Vice Magazine article published Tuesday, Massoudi hired a hacker in May to retrieve the video showing Ford smoking crack cocaine. Vice claims they spoke to the hacker and have emails allegedly sent between the hacker and Massoudi.

In an email to the Journal, Massoudi denied the allegations, calling them “absurd”.

“The entirety of the story is false and everything referenced therein has been fabricated. It is telling that the story neither quotes any named sources nor provides any independent corroboration of the alleged hacker’s information,” he said.

He added that he’ll be contacting the City of Toronto’s IT services to investigate whether his email account was spoofed.

Other Queen’s grads connected to the events in Ford’s office are Brooks Barnett, ArtSci ’09, and Kia Nejatian, ArtSci ’10. Barnett was a policy advisor for the Mayor until Wednesday morning, when he handed in his resignation without a public explanation. The previous day, Ford had admitted publically to smoking crack cocaine.

While at Queen’s, Barnett served as the ASUS chief electoral officer, as an ASUS student senator and ran in the 2008 Rector election.

Barnett was unable to be contacted for an interview.

Nejatian was Ford’s administrative assistant until the end of May, leaving just weeks after the first crack video allegations emerged. He now runs his own vacation-rental business in Toronto.

Nejatian was named in the 465-page court document released last week regarding the arrest of Sandro Lisi, Rob Ford’s personal driver, who is an alleged drug dealer.

The document, which was heavily redacted, revealed that Ford was under police surveillance for months, and proved through phone records his close relationship with Lisi. According to the documents, Nejatian drafted a reference letter for Lisi on behalf of Ford on official City letterhead. The letter from Ford was used in court as a character reference for Lisi, who, at the time, was facing allegations of threatening to kill a woman.

In an email to the Journal, Nejatian didn’t comment on the court documents, instead saying that working at Toronto’s City Hall was an “intense” experience, but one that he enjoyed.

“The news that has come out since my departure has been as much of a surprise to me as to other Torontonians,” he said.

In a June 2013 interview with the Journal, Nejatian stressed that his departure from the Mayor’s office was unrelated to the scandal that was beginning to unfold at the time.

While in Kingston, Nejatian worked at Varsity Properties, and wanted to continue down that career path in Toronto.

“I resigned in the Mayor’s office to pursue my passion in real estate,” he said. “I had no issues whatsoever with the negative attention the Mayor was receiving over certain issues.”

“The reason I stayed for so long was because of all the negative attention. I didn’t want to jump ship on the Mayor during a hard time.”

Nejatian said it’s only partially coincidental that so many Queen’s alumni worked for Ford.

During Ford’s 2010 campaign, he recruited one friend from Queen’s to take part, who then convinced several other grads to join. While working for Ford, Nejatian found there was good chemistry between the staffers.

“A lot of our staff were really calm ... and I think we handled everything pretty well,” he said.

“There was never a dull moment in the Mayor’s office. There was always something new.”

— With files from Nick Faris

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