Bloor West Villager
Davenport Councillor Ana Bailao will be pleading not guilty to drunk driving charges stemming from an incident early Tuesday morning, and says that the legal fight won’t impair her ability to do her job as city councillor.
“I want to be absolutely clear—these charges will in no way affect my ability to do the job that I was elected to do,” said Bailao Wednesday morning at the Toronto City Hall Press Gallery. “I intend to plead not-guilty, I can assure you I’m taking these charges quite seriously, and I intend to cooperate with the legal system.”
Bailao made her statement to a bank of television cameras and microphones, and flanked by supportive city councillors. The statement came nearly 24 hours after the story broke, that police had stopped the 36-year-old first-time councillor at 1:47 a.m. at Harbord and Bathurst Streets.
According to police, they stopped Bailao’s car because of observations they’d made about her driving. Police charged her with impaired driving, and having a blood alcohol level over the legal limit of 80 milligrams.
On Tuesday, Bailao only issued a written statement. But Wednesday morning, she held her news conference with the assistance of Mayor Rob Ford’s communications staff.
Bailao would not comment on particulars of the evening, saying that her lawyer advised her to remain silent while the matter was before the courts.
But she did thank those who offered her support.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank my constituents, colleagues, family and friends who have called and emailed to show their support for me,” she said. “I am confident I will be able to demonstrate their faith in me is not misplaced. I will continue to focus on my work to improve housing, public transit and be a strong, strong voice for the residents of Ward 18.”
Councillors lined up at the podium after Bailao’s statement. Speaker Frances Nunziata said Bailao “is an amazing councillor... hard-working, and she will still continue to do the hard work.”
Councillor Doug Ford also showed support.
“She’s going through a tough time right now and everyone makes mistakes,” said Ford. “She had a bad night, she regrets it, she apologized, and it’s time to move on now. I guess it’s in the hands of the courts.”
In fact, Bailao had not apologized during her brief news conference, maintaining her innocence.
Toronto Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher said that she believed her colleague, but added the incident added up to a wake-up call for others on council who find themselves at events where alcohol is served.
“Elected officials, city, provincial and federal... we are invited to so many places where there is a lot of alcohol,” she said. “This is a wakeup call to a lot of elected officials. We are out there expected to have a great time.”
Bailao will appear in court Dec. 3 on the charges.