Ford apologizes for his handling of conflict-of-interest case
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford apologized Monday for his handling of a conflict-of-interest case that had led to his ouster from office, but said he is appealing the court’s decision so he can continue to lead the city.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Ford said he could have expressed himself differently in council regarding the fundraising he undertook for his football foundation.
“This entire matter began because I love to help kids play football,” said Ford during a news conference. “When this came to council for a vote, I felt it was important to answer the accusations that had been made against me.”
The case that shook up Toronto City Hall this week came down to Ford’s use of an official city letterhead in 2010 to solicit donations to his private football foundation, and his participation in a council debate two years later about whether he should repay the $3,150 raised.
Paul Magder, the Toronto resident who launched the lawsuit, had argued that the mayor violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act when he voted on the issue in council. In his defence, Ford said he didn’t remember reading the councillors’ handbook that outlines conflict-of-interest rules, despite having been a councillor since 2000, and said he didn’t think he did anything wrong.
“I was focused on raising money to help under privileged youth. I never believed there was a conflict of interest because I had nothing to gain, and the city had nothing to lose,” said Ford. “But I respect the court’s decision.”
Ford to appeal verdict
On Monday, immediately after Ontario Superior Court Judge Charles Hackland ordered Ford to vacate office in 14 days, the mayor indicated he would appeal and seek a stay-of-removal order, which could allow him to hold onto his job while his request is considered by the courts.
Ford’s request for a “stay of removal” order will be heard on Dec. 5 and the appeal will be heard on Jan. 7, 2013.
“I will keep working to do exactly that for as long as I can or until the people elect someone else to do the job,” said Ford.
In what may have been his last council meeting as mayor, Ford left city hall early Tuesday to coach his beloved Don Bosco Eagles in the Metro Bowl, where the Etobicoke high school team faced Newmarket’s Huron Heights Warriors at the Rogers Centre. The Eagles lost to Warriors 28-14.
Prior to the highly-publicized game, members of the media were advised that any questions directed to players or coaches should only pertain to what happens on the field.
In the meantime, Toronto’s top lawyer has shut down Mayor Rob Ford’s plans to run in a potential byelection, determining he cannot seek office again until the next general election.
City solicitor says Ford ineligible to run in byelection
Speaking to council on Tuesday, City solicitor Anna Kinastowski said she believes that a judge’s ruling ousting Ford for the “current term” bars him from council until the year 2014, when the next scheduled municipal election will take place.
“That is our interpretation of that particular fact,” she said.
Kinastowski’s analysis runs contrary to claims Mayor Ford made on Monday, as he vowed to fight “tooth and nail” against a court order removing him from office in 13 days.
“If they do for some reason get me out, I’ll be running right back at them,” Ford said Monday. “As soon as the next election is, if there’s a byelection, I’ll have my name -- first one on the ballot.”
Ford has alleged that his court ordered removal from office is the result of left-wing politics, claiming “the left-wing wants me out of here and they’ll do anything in their power to.”
With Ford promising to fight his imminent ouster, municipal law specialist John Mascarin predicts there will be much legal manoeuvring in the days ahead.
In an interview with CTV Toronto, Mascarin outlined potential outcomes in the Ford saga.
According to Mascarin, a partner with the Toronto-based Aird & Berlis, it is possible for Ford to remain mayor while he fights appeals Justice Hackland’s verdict.
In short, when Ford files his appeal, he must also file an application for a stay. The applications must be filed at the same time, and with the same court.
He’ll also have to ask for an expedited ruling, said Mascarin.
How likely is it that Ford will be granted an appeal or stay?
“I think (Ford) has a great shot at getting the stay,” said Mascarin. “He’ll argue that it will cause irreparable harm to both himself, as well as to the city.”
Ford’s case involved just over $3,000 in charitable donations, while an election could cost the city several million dollars. Does the punishment fit the crime?
In Mascarin’s view, the decision comes down to principle.
“If you have a financial interest in a matter before your council or before committee, then you just don’t speak to it. You don’t attempt to influence anyone, and you certainly don’t vote on it,” he said.
What options does city council have at this point?
Within 60 days of council -- not Justice Hackland -- declaring Ford’s seat vacant, the council must make a decision on whether they’re going to appoint someone.
“That person can be any person, as long as they’re entitled to be an elector in the City of Toronto,” said Mascarin, noting that the person doesn’t have to be a council member.
The second route is to hold a byelection. Though Ford has vowed to run in any potential vote, Toronto’s city solicitor suggested Monday that he is unable to do that.