Ford will appeal ruling that ousted him from office
Published Monday, November 26, 2012 10:37AM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 26, 2012 9:28PM EST
A judge has ordered Mayor Rob Ford to be removed from office in two weeks after finding him guilty of breaking provincial conflict of interest rules but the embattled politician says he "will fight tooth and nail for his job" and appeal the decision.
Ford was accused of not declaring a conflict of interest when he participated in a city council vote on whether he should repay $3,150 in donations he solicited for his private football foundation using official city letterhead.
The judge's decision will take effect in 14 days. The grace period was granted to give city council time to decide how to proceed - whether to appoint a city councillor as a caretaker or hold a byelection.
Ford will remain the city's mayor until then, pending the outcome of his appeal.
"I'm a fighter, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose," he told reporters during a frenzied news conference outside his office just before 12:30 p.m. "I'm going to fight tooth and nail to hold on to my job. If they get me out, then I will be running again. If there is a byelection, then I will be on the ballot."
However, in his 24-page decision, Superior Court Judge Charles Hackland seemingly disqualifies Ford from running again during this term in office, which expires in 2014, which could mean that Ford would not be allowed to run in a byelection before then.
But lawyers agree the wording of the judge's ruling could be interpreted in different ways.
"I decline to impose any further disqualification from holding office beyond current term," the ruling says.
Hackland could have banned Ford from running again for up to seven years.
In his decision, Hackland took Ford to task, saying he failed to live up to a standard of leadership and responsibility.
“It is difficult to accept an error in judgement defence based essentially on a stubborn sense of entitlement (concerning his football foundation) and a dismissive and confrontational attitude to the Integrity Commissioner and Code of Conduct,” Superior Court Judge Charles Hackland wrote.
"In my opinion, the respondent's actions were characterized by ignorance of the law and a lack of diligence in securing professional advice, amounting to willful blindness," Hackland wrote. "In my opinion, a high standard must be expected from an elected official in a position of leadership and responsibility."
The lawsuit was launched by Toronto resident Paul Magder, who was represented by lawyer Clayton Ruby.
After the outcome was revealed, Ruby told reporters the decision preserves the integrity of municipal government.
“While we’re pleased to have won this case we’re also saddened by it,” Ruby said. “It is tragic that the elected mayor of a great city should bring himself to this.”
Ruby told reporters Ford has no one to blame but himself.
“Rob Ford did this to Rob Ford,” Ruby said. “It could so easily have been avoided. It could have been avoided if Rob Ford had used a bit of common sense and if he had played by the rules.”
Magder, who joined Ruby at a news conference, defended his decision to take Ford to court.
“I believe that we as citizens are responsible for each other and that means standing up and doing what is right,” Magder told reporters. “In the judgment, Judge Hackland said a high standard must be expected from an elected official in a position of leadership and responsibility, and that’s exactly what we all feel.”
Councillors react to decision
At city hall, reaction to the decision was swift.
The mayor's brother, Doug Ford, told reporters he has been receiving "thousands" of calls from people expressing their support for his family.
He is telling everyone who wants to show their support to come out to the Metro Bowl happening at the Rogers Centre Tuesday evening. Mayor Ford will be there coaching the Don Bosco football team.
Ford ally Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti criticized the judge’s decision but later resigned from the city's executive committee.
Mammoliti said his constituents have told him he he should step away and he is listening to their advice. He said he has written the mayor a letter advising him of his decision and he told reporters he will not rule out a decision to run for mayor should a byelection be called.
Earlier in the day, Mammoliti had suggested the ruling was motivated by politics, and that it has plunged city council into a period of turmoil that may disrupt city hall business for months.
He said Toronto, one of North America’s largest cities, is being “treated like a township up north” by the courts.
As Mammoliti said he would support a byelection if Ford does not appeal the decision and deputy mayor Doug Holyday does not assume the mayor’s chair.
But Mammoliti said he would prefer to continue to pursue the agenda that voters chose when they elected Ford during the last civic election.
“Is the mandate that we’ve tried to take on here supposed to be the mandate for the next two years?” Mammoliti said. “The electorate are the only ones that can decide that, no court of law.”
Coun. Josh Matlow, a Ford critic, described the decision as “shocking” and “surprising.”
“I believe it’s unprecedented and it’s a lesson that we all need to learn, which is if you’re elected to council, first of all, read the council handbook and know the rules,” Matlow told CP24 reporter Katie Simpson. “No. 2, demonstrate the leadership that people have asked you to do, and that means following the rules that are there.”
Ford opponent Coun. Janet Davis said she felt that Ford’s removal was a strong possibility.
“The mayor is not above the law, and the judge said that today,” Davis told reporters. “He often breaks the law and gets away with it, well, this time he didn’t.”
Davis said the decision should serve as a lesson in accountability and transparency for people involved in politics.
In the wake of the decision, Davis said, city councillors of all political stripes must come together and pursue an agenda that is in best interest of all Torontonians.
“We have to continue to operate in the best interest of our communities and our city as a whole,” Davis said.
Ford believed he did nothing wrong
At a trial in September, Ford told court he believed he did nothing wrong, while lawyer Clayton Ruby argued the mayor acted in bad faith by not familiarizing himself with the city's conflict of interest rules.
Ford said he didn't remember receiving or reading a handbook for municipal councillors that outlines when to declare conflict of interest or the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, which he was accused of breaking.
In 2010, Ford used his staff to help send out donation requests for his football fund and mail them to donors who had officially lobbied the city government.
The city's integrity commissioner found Ford's actions broke the conduct code for councillors and recommended he pay back $3,150 to the donors from his own pocket.
City council adopted the commissioner's findings and sanction in a resolution Ford voted against -- but he never made the repayments, despite several reminders from the commissioner.
Council later voted to overturn the integrity commissioner's penalty. Ford voted in favour of the motion that would allow him to keep the money.
Hackland said Ford contravened the act when he spoke and voted on a matter in which he had a pecuniary interest.
With files from CP24 reporter Sue Sgambati and The Canadian Press
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