Ford's fate in judges' hands after arguments close in appeal
Chris Kitching and Joshua Freeman, cp24.com
Published Monday, January 7, 2013 5:08AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 7, 2013 5:47PM EST
Mayor Rob Ford is now awaiting a decision by a three-judge panel about whether he will get to stay on as mayor of Toronto.
Lawyers finished making their arguments in the appeal shortly before 5 p.m. but the judges said they would not be ruling on the appeal today.
Outside the courthouse, an optimistic Ford spoke briefly with reporters.
“I can’t say anything about today’s court proceedings. All I can say is that I’m going to continue fighting for the taxpayers,” Ford said.
He also expressed confidence in interim mayor Doug Holyday and thanked his supporters.
“I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support,” Ford said. Earlier in the day he told CP24’s Katie Simpson that he has “faith in the justice system.”
Speaking to CP24’s Reena Heer, Coun. Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, said his brother’s demeanour was as good as could be expected.
“Any court case is tough but we’re going to focus on the budget moving forward… we’re going to keep fighting for the taxpayers,” he said.
Lawyers make arguments
As the mayor sat in a packed courtroom Monday, his lawyer, Alan Lenczner, made a series of arguments to try to convince the Divisonal Court panel to overturn the ruling that found Ford guilty of violating provincial conflict-of-interest rules.
In November, Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland ruled Ford broke the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act when he did not excuse himself from a city council vote on whether he should repay $3,150 he had solicited for his private football foundation using official city letterhead.
During Monday's hearing, Lenczner argued Hackland erred in his decision.
Lenczner told the judges that city council did not have the authority to order Ford to repay the money and the mayor should not have been penalized for taking part in the vote, arguing the only options available to council were a reprimand or a loss of pay.
Lenczner argued there was no evidence of corruption, the amount of money involved was small and was not given to Ford personally, and there was no question of transparency.
Ford's lawyer also accused Hackland of misreading an earlier ruling that he relied on in his decision to remove the mayor from office.
"He took it completely out of context," the lawyer said of Hackland's reliance on a particular passage.
Lenczner claimed the judge confused the city's code of conduct and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act under which Ford was ousted.
Lenczner said the act should not have applied in this case because it involved a personal matter for Ford, not a business matter involving the city.
But Lawyer Clayton Ruby, who argued the case that resulted in the original decision to oust Ford, countered Lenczner’s arguments, rejecting the idea that Ford had made a “good faith error in judgment.” He also argued that Ford ignored warnings from the city solicitor that he was in a conflict of interests position.
Before heading to court in the morning, Ford offered little comment about the day ahead.
“You know what, let’s take one day at a time," Ford told CP24 reporter Katie Simpson outside his office at city hall.
Ford was ordered to vacate his city council seat two weeks after Hackland’s decision, but he was granted a stay, meaning he remains the city’s mayor during the appeal process.
The conflict-of-interest case was launched by Toronto resident Paul Magder, who is represented by Ruby.
If Ford wins his appeal, he will remain Toronto’s mayor until the municipal election in October 2014.
If he loses, city council will be forced to appoint a caretaker mayor or hold a byelection, which may cost $7 million, according to published estimates.
Ford said he will run in a byelection if council calls one.
Push to appoint Ford as mayor if appeal fails
If council chooses to appoint an interim mayor, councillors Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, and Doug Holyday, the city's deputy mayor, say they will attempt to appoint Rob Ford to the position.
Holyday said it would be the fair thing to do.
"The penalty does not fit what has happened here, and if councillors will just look at this with a sense of fairness I think they’ll arrive at the same conclusion I have, that the fair thing to do would be to reappoint Rob," Holyday told CP24.
“The judge said that the law was a blunt instrument, (and) the province is reviewing that law because they know that it isn’t right,” Holyday said earlier in the interview.
If the effort to appoint Rob Ford fails, Holyday would put his name forward to become the city's interim mayor, he said.
Doug Ford said he would prefer a byelection if the appointment falls flat.
“If that fails, getting an appointment, we’d love to go to the people,” Doug Ford said. “We live in a democracy and we want the people to decide who their mayor is going to be.”
The judges said Monday that the parties would be notified of the decision first before the ruling is made public.
With files from CP24 reporter Rena Heer and The Canadian Press
@ChrisKitching and @Josh_F are Twitter. Don't forget, for instant breaking news, follow @CP24 on Twitter.