Ford free to run in byelection, judge says
Published Friday, November 30, 2012 10:55AM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 30, 2012 3:12PM EST
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is free to run in a potential byelection after the judge in his municipal conflict-of-interest case clarified his ruling Friday.
Justice Charles Hackland agreed in a conference call with lawyers Friday to remove a paragraph from his ruling that suggested Ford would be banned from running again until 2014.
Initially, Hackland said Ford must step down from the mayor's seat within two weeks of Monday’s ruling, but that the ramifications of his actions would not continue beyond "the current term."
That left observers wondering when exactly the current term ended, and whether Ford would be allowed to run in a byelection -- something he vowed to do if permitted.
In a brief court filing released Friday, Hackland explained that after being asked for clarification, he had deleted the words "beyond the current term," and Ford was free to run in a byelection if and when it is held.
"The corrected sentence shall now read: 'In view of the significant mitigating circumstances surrounding the respondent's actions, as set out in paragraph 48 of these reasons, I decline to impose any further disqualification from holding office under s. 10(1)(b) of the MCIA (Municipal Conflict of Interest Act)."
The decision to hold a potential byelection rests with Toronto City Council.
If council decides on the byelection, which is estimated to cost taxpayers $7 million, it will likely be held during the summer.
Prosecuting lawyer Clayton Ruby would not comment Friday on whether he would appeal the decision, however, he told CTV Toronto that it is legally possible.
Earlier this week, Ford's lawyer Alan Lenczner wrote to Hackland asking for clarification.
"It is the last three words of paragraph 60 'beyond the current term' that is causing uncertainty," Lenczner wrote. "We view those words as being either superfluous to your expressed intention or meaning that the current term for this responded has ended, subject to a suspension of 14 days.
"To put it plainly, if city council were to hold an election for mayor in 2013, we respectfully submit that the respondent could present himself as a candidate."
Ruby also wrote to the judge, suggesting the words "current term" should be defined as a full four-year mayoralty term, which would effectively ban Ford from running in a byelection.
"As Mr. Ford was elected into office in 2010, it is clear to us that your judgment disqualifies him from holding office until the end of the December 1, 2010 to December 1, 2014 term," Ruby wrote.
In his decision Monday, Hackland ruled that Ford must vacate from the mayoral office after participating in a council vote on an issue in which he had a financial interest -- a violation of provincial law.
Next week, Divisional Court is expected to hear Ford's application for a stay of Hackland's judgment -- which the justice put on hold for 14 days -- until Ford’s appeal has been dealt with.
The full appeal is expected to be heard Jan. 7, 2013.
Ford and his spokesperson are not commenting on Friday’s decision, as the case is currently before the courts.
Coun. Joe Mihevc told The Canadian Press that he supports calling a byelection if Ford loses his appeal.
"I cannot see this council, frankly, re-appointing a mayor that was just turfed from office by the judiciary. I don't think that would be appropriate."
He added that Ford’s ouster has rocked the entire municipal government.
"Tensions are high here. We are all trying to keep the whole ship of state together here at city hall.”
With files from The Canadian Press
According to reports, the judge who found Ford in violation of municipal conflict of interest laws earlier this week has clarified his statement, saying the mayor is free to run in a potential byelection.