Monday, November 26, 2012

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford removed from office

Mayor Rob Ford testified he didn't read a handbook for councillors that outlines when to declare conflict of interest. 

In a bombshell ruling, a judge has found Mayor Rob Ford guilty of breaching provincial of conflict of interest law and ordered him removed from office in 14 days — though Ford can launch an appeal, and also seek an order to allow him to stay in office until the appeals process is done.

Ford has 30 days to appeal. If his lawyer cannot convince Divisional Court to “stay” the removal order within the 14 days, council will have the option of either appointing a councillor to be caretaker mayor until the end of the term in December 2014 or triggering a $7-million byelection.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland’s decision appears to disqualify Ford from running in any byelection held before the regularly scheduled October 2014 mayoral election, but it does not say he can’t run in future elections. Hackland could have banned Ford from running for up to seven years.

Ford has not yet commented on the ruling. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case centred around Ford’s decision to participate in a February council debate on whether he should be forced to repay $3,150 to lobbyists whose donations to his football foundation he improperly accepted. 

Ford made an impassioned speech urging council to excuse him — “To ask me to pay it out of my own pocket personally, there is just, there is no sense to this,” he said — and then voted with the 22-12 majority to cancel an earlier council order to reimburse the money. 

The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, a provincial law, is strict: members of council cannot speak or vote on issues in which they have a financial interest.

Hackland could have allowed Ford to keep his job, even if he found that Ford broke the law, by accepting the argument that Ford’s actions were inadvertent or a result of an error in judgment, or that the amount of money in question — $3,150 — was unlikely to influence him.

But Hackland rejected all of the arguments put forth by Ford’s lawyer, Alan Lenczner. In dismissing the suggestion that Ford had made an error in judgment, Hackland suggested Ford had deliberately ignored the law in question.
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