TORONTO – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was spotted in a small Ontario town Friday despite his lawyer insisting that the embattled leader of Canada's biggest city is still in rehab.
Ford announced late last month that he was seeking treatment for an alcohol problem after a new video surfaced that appeared to show Ford smoking a crack pipe late last month. It was only the latest twist in the ongoing saga of Ford, whose notorious and frequently filmed behavior led the city council to strip him of most of his powers after he admitted last year that he had smoked crack in a "drunken stupor" and was depicted on video threatening to "murder" someone.
On Friday, dozens of people spotted Ford outside a shopping plaza in Bracebridge, a community in the province's countryside, said resident Brody Lisle, 19. Lisle was one of many locals who posed with the mayor for a photo.
"I was so excited, I'm still shaking after seeing him," Lisle said. "He seemed a lot thinner and he was really happy and cheerful."
Ford said rehab was "really good," said Lisle, who called herself a fan of the confessed crack-smoking mayor.
"He's done two weeks so far and he's got six more weeks left," she said, "and he's feeling really good about himself, and health-wise, he's lost a few pounds."
The Bracebridge Examiner first reported that it received a tip Ford was in the area Friday afternoon and posted mobile phone photos of the mayor posing with residents.
More photos of Ford posing with construction workers and staff at a dry cleaning store were posted later on Twitter.
Ford's lawyer Dennis Morris wouldn't confirm his client's whereabouts.
"I cannot tell you where the mayor is, unfortunately," Morris said. "The good news is, he's in rehab, and you know, it's always nice to leave him alone."
Friday marked a year since the Toronto Star and the U.S. website Gawker first reported seeing a video that appeared to show the mayor smoking crack cocaine.
Months later, Ford admitted to trying the drug while drunk and to using drugs while in office.
The mayor has previously publicly swore off alcohol, saying he had cleaned up his act and was working out.
However, he was forced to admit drinking after another videotaped incident in which he used obscene Jamaican slang words and criticized Toronto's chief of police.
The Globe and Mail said last month a drug dealer had shown two of its reporters video of Ford allegedly smoking what was said to be crack in the basement of his sister's home. The paper said it paid $10,000 for frame grabs showing Ford holding a copper pipe.
The Toronto Star also published details of "two nights of utter debauchery" involving Ford at a Toronto nightclub.
Police began investigating Ford after a guns and gangs probe turned up wiretaps that allegedly captured conversations about the first "crack" video.
A friend of Ford's has been charged with extortion related to attempts to retrieve the video.