Court case could oust Mayor Ford from office
Published Tuesday, September 4, 2012 6:45PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 4, 2012 7:14PM EDT
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is set to appear in court Wednesday in a case that has the potential to oust him from his position.
Ford is facing allegations that he violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act when he participated in a council debate in which he had a financial interest.
The actions in question began in 2010 when Ford, who was then a city councillor, solicited about $3,000 in donations from lobbyists for his personal football foundation, which donates money to allow underprivileged kids to play the sport.
Ford solicited these donations using council letterhead, something that caught the attention of integrity commissioner Janet Leiper, who told Ford his actions breached the lobbyist code of conduct.
Leiper ordered Ford to pay back the money. He ignored that request, and six other requests to do so.
The issue came back to council in February when Ford, who was now mayor, participated in a debate about the money and voted against having to pay it back.
The current lawsuit stems from that February debate and alleges that Ford broke the Conflict of Interest Act when he both participated in and voted in the debate.
The lawsuit has been launched by private citizen Paul Magder, who will be represented by high-profile lawyer Clayton Ruby.
In the past, Ruby has represented clients including Donald Marshall Jr., who was found to have been wrongly jailed for murder for 11 years, and the remaining Dionne quintuplets, who were removed from their family and put on display in a commercial theme park in 1934.
Speaking on Canada AM Tuesday, legal expert Steven Skurka said he thinks Ford was mistaken when he appeared before council in February.
“It seems pretty obvious that he should have stepped aside, because there was a conflict of interest,” Skurka said. “He’s involved in this. Instead, he becomes actively involved in the debate at City Council and votes in favour of not having to repay the money.”
Ford's lawyer is expected to use a number of defences, including whether the mayor made an honest error in judgment. He may also argue that $3,000 is too insignificant an amount to constitute a conflict of interest and that Ford didn’t directly benefit from his actions.
If Ford is found to have contravened the act, the law states that court “shall” remove him from office, which most legal experts interpret as an immediate removal.
“As of Friday of this week, the city may not have a mayor,” Skurka said.
Should that happen, the city could appoint someone new, or the city could hold a byelection to choose a new mayor.
“I think that Mayor Ford may lose and I think that the people of Toronto may be outraged that a private citizen can do this,” Skurka said. “I believe that (Ford) will run again and I believe that, if he does so, he’s going to win resoundingly.”
Should Ford be convicted, the court could allow the mayor to run for his seat immediately, or it could bar him for running for up to seven years.
Ford said, should he lose his job, he will be ready to run for it again as soon as the judge allows.
The case is expected to take three days in court.
With files from CTV Toronto’s Natalie Johnson