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Local business leaders 'say cheese' with embattled Toronto mayor

As you might have heard, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, the admitted crack smoker who can charitably be described as a walking trainwreck of an elected official, chose to watch a little football this weekend.

Ford caused a minor international incident when he showed up at Sunday's Bills *home* game against the Atlanta Falcons in Toronto's Rogers Centre.

There was a large contingent of local business leaders and media types at the game, and some of them -- we're looking at you, Maryalice Demler -- created a stir after posting photos on Twitter taken with the controversial Ford.

The Buffalonians who posed with Ford included the top officials at two of this region's most prominent business organizations: Tom Kucharski of Buffalo Niagara Enterprise and Dottie Gallagher-Cohen of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

Gallagher-Cohen happily tweeted that she got the chance to hobnob with Ford.

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Therese Hickok, a spokeswoman for the Partnership, said Gallagher-Cohen watched the game in a suite with a contingent of business officials from the United States and Canada, Partnership and BNE representatives and executives from Rogers Communications. The group was there for a two-day, business-networking event called the Cross Border Huddle.

Hickok said Ford was in the suite next door and many people, including Gallagher-Cohen, went over to the other suite to meet the mayor and, yes, pose for a picture with him.

"He's still the mayor. He was shaking hands, as elected officials do, and posing for pictures with everyone," said Hickok, who wasn't there.

Asked whether she's sorry she didn't get to take a picture with Ford, Hickok laughed before replying, neutrally, "Yeah."

At least Gallagher-Cohen had the good sense, or good luck, not to put online a photo of her encounter with the Chris Farley-lookalike Ford.

Someone posted the Kucharski photo to the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise Twitter feed with the comment: "CEO Tom Kucharski taking it in w Toronto Mayor Rob Ford!"

The photo, and the exclamation point, drew criticism, with one commenter, Sean, or @202from716, asking why the BNE was proud of this tweet and whether "morons" operate its Twitter account.

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Sometime between the end of the game and Monday afternoon the BNE took down the tweet with the Kucharski-Ford picture.

BNE spokesman Paul Pfeiffer, like Hickok, said Ford may be controversial but he still is the mayor of Toronto. As for why the BNE took down the tweet, he said the online criticism had nothing to do with it.

"It was more of, does this content provide value for us? No, it really doesn't, so we took it down," Pfeiffer said.

It didn't provide value to the BNE, but we're getting a lot of mileage out of it.

-- Stephen T. Watson

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