Toronto city council voted to strip scandal-plagued Mayor Rob Ford of some of his powers but Ford, who admitted to smoking crack cocaine while in office, promised to challenge the moves in court.

The Council voted 39 to three to suspend the mayor's ability to appoint and dismiss the deputy mayor and committee chairs. Ford and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, and one other councillor voted no.

Council also voted 41 to two to give the deputy mayor, rather than the mayor, special powers during emergencies such as natural disasters. Only the Ford brothers voted no.

Most city councillors are frustrated by Ford's refusal to step aside since he admitted last week to smoking crack, but they lack the authority to force him out of office unless he is convicted of a crime.

"I can't support this and obviously I have no other options but to challenge this in court," the mayor said.

The vote came a day after yet another series of antics from Ford that outraged city councillors, anti-drunk driving advocates and even Toronto's football team.

We need to take away his power for the good of the city.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong,former ally of Ford's

Ford drew gasps from reporters on Thursday morning when he used an obscenity as he denied telling a staffer he wanted to have oral sex, admitted that he had driven while drinking and then apologised for his vulgarity and said he was seeking professional help, though he refused to give details.

He also threatened to take legal action against his former chief of staff, two other aides and a waiter over interviews with police that were detailed in court documents released on Wednesday.

The court documents are part of a drug case against Ford's friend and occasional driver.

Police interviews with Ford's ex-staffers revealed their concerns about his drug use and drunk driving, with one staffer alleging another saw Ford "impaired, driving very fast," and frightening the female employee who was in the car with him.

He provoked a written protest from the Toronto Argonauts football team because he was wearing a team jersey when he made his coarse remarks.

"We need to take away his power for the good of the city," said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a former ally.

Further decline

It has been a stunning decline for the 44-year-old mayor who was elected three years ago with fervent support from Toronto's conservative-leaning outer suburbs, where many voters felt angry about what they considered wasteful spending and elitist politics at City Hall.

Ford's troubles began escalating in May when news reports first surfaced of a video showing him smoking crack.

John Filion, the councillor who introduced Friday's motion, has said the goal is to prevent Ford from firing executive committee members who speak out against him.

The effort will continue on Monday when the council moves to strip the mayor of most of his remaining powers. A motion, already signed by 28 of the 44 council members, will take away his budget and appoint the deputy mayor as head of the executive committee.

Source: Agencies