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Ford concludes testimony in conflict-of-interest case
Chris Fox, cp24.com
Published Wednesday, September 5, 2012 5:27AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 5, 2012 5:02PM EDT
Mayor Rob Ford stepped down from the stand Wednesday afternoon after spending most of the day defending himself against accusations he acted in conflict of interest during a meeting at city hall earlier this year.
Ford concluded his testimony telling a packed courtroom that he was not aware of any conflict-when he voted in favour of scrapping a penalty levied against him by the city’s integrity commissioner.
“I’m not sure how much more clear I can be,” Ford said as his day-long testimony came to a close late Wednesday afternoon.
The penalty would have forced Ford to repay $3,150 in donations he collected for the Rob Ford Football Foundation using councillor letterhead, but council, Ford included, voted to drop it during a February council meeting.
Taking the stand to defend himself against allegations he willfully violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, Ford said his decision to speak on the matter did not meet his “definition” of a conflict-of-interest nor did it raise the ire of city staff.
“If the City clerk advises me there's a conflict or a possible conflict I will declare it. Most councillors do,” he said. “Legal staff and clerks were present at this vote. Nobody came forward to say I had a conflict.”
Upon cross examination by Clayton Ruby, who represents plaintiff and concerned Torontonian Paul Magder, Ford said he believes conflict-of-interest laws would only have applied if both he and the city were in a position to benefit financially.
Ruby, however, said the city’s handbook explicitly states that conflict-of-interest laws apply to all matters before council.
“For 12 years I've believed if it benefits the city and a councillor it is a conflict,” Ford said in his defence. “This had nothing to do with the city.”
Pressed by Ruby for an admission of guilt Ford refused to budge, saying he would only regret his actions if found guilty.
Though most of Ruby’s questioning focused around Ford’s prior knowledge of conflict-of-interest laws, the Rob Ford Football Foundation itself was also discussed at length with Ruby suggesting that Ford exaggerated the amount of money the foundation had raised on his mayoral campaign website.
Ford denied that allegation, saying he was including personal donations he himself had made towards establishing a football program at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School when he boasted that the foundation had raised $100,000.
He noted that other literature, which didn’t include those personal donations, suggests the foundation has raised about $37,000.
“If I put my own money in there I look like I'm fluffing myself,” he said.
Judge warns against irrelevant evidence
At one point during Wednesday’s testimony Ford was asked about his official Twitter account, which he said was run by a member of his staff.
The account, Ruby said, had in the past posted photos showing Ford handing over novelty-sized checks to high school football programs bearing the signature of Mayor Rob Ford, but Justice Charles said that detail had nothing to do with fundraising and warned Ruby to stick only to questions concerning the city’s integrity commissioner.
Ford’s testimony wrapped for the day at around 4:30 p.m. with the mayor leaving the courtroom without speaking to reporters.
Lawyers outline cases
In his opening statement earlier Wednesday morning Ruby said it would be up to Hackland to decide whether Ford was in a conflict-of-interest and if so whether he is genuine in his belief that he’s done nothing wrong.
“He (Ford) believes if the city has no financial interest councillors can vote however they please,” he said.” You will decide whether such a belief is an honest and good faith belief or just a smoke screen for determined defiance of the integrity commissioner’s examination of this case.”
In the past Ford has called the case against him “all politics," telling CP24 during an interview last week that he “truly believes” he has done nothing wrong.
During that same interview, Ford also spoke at length about the good work his foundation has done, but on Wednesday Ruby questioned the relevance of that work.
“Mayor Ford wants this to be about kids and donations to his football teams,” he said. “That is not what this hearing is about."
If Hackland finds Ford willingly violated the conflict-of-interest act he would have no choice but to remove him from office.
Addressing the courtroom Ford’s lawyer Alan Lenczner said the mayor did not violate the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act because the act does not apply to discussions surrounding integrity commissioner rulings.
Lenczner added that the integrity commissioner had no right to fine Ford in the first place, since city regulations only allow the formal reprimand of councillors and or suspension of their pay.
“The conflict-of-interest act does not apply in this matter,” Lenczner said. “It counts when someone brings a motion forward for city business; this case is a personal claw back of Mr. Ford.”
Arguments in the conflict-of-interest case are expected to resume at 10 a.m. Thursday. Ford is not expected to return to the stand.
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