Mayor Rob Ford firmly stood his ground following a judge’s stunning decision on Monday to remove him from office for breaking conflict of interest rules. He has vowed to appeal the ruling and fight “tooth and nail” to keep his job.
Just after 10 a.m., Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland issued his ruling in the case that revolved around Ford participating in a city council vote last February about whether he should have to repay questionable donations to his private football charity. The Rob Ford Football Foundation raises funds to help start football programs at Toronto high schools.
“In view of the respondent’s leadership role in ensuring integrity in municipal government, it is difficult to accept an error in judgment defence based essentially on a stubborn sense of entitlement (concerning his football foundation) and a dismissive and confrontational attitude to the Integrity Commissioner and the Code of Conduct,” Hackland said in his ruling.
“In my opinion, the respondent’s actions were characterized by ignorance of the law and a lack of diligence in securing professional advice, amounting to wilful blindness. As such, I find his actions are incompatible with an error in judgment.”
Scroll to the bottom of the page to read the entire ruling.
The decision could take effect in 14 days, giving council some time to get affairs in order.
However, Ford may be in office longer should a stay against the order be granted. Ford is still allowed to run for re-election, the judge ruled.
Reacting to the news outside his office at city hall, Ford blamed the situation on left-wing politics.
“I’m going to appeal it and carry on with my job,” he said. “I’m a fighter and I’ve done a lot of great work for the city and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”
“The left wing wants me out of here and they’ll do anything in their power to. I’m going to fight tooth and nail to hold on to my job.”
Ford said his name will be first on the ballot in the next election if he’s forced to leave his post.
“Today’s decision shows that when you break the rules there’s a price to pay,” high-profile lawyer Clayton Ruby said. He argued the case against Ford.
“It’s important for the courts to assert that nobody is above the law, Rob Ford included.”
Ruby challenged Ford’s assertion that he “did it for the kids” saying: “He should’ve remembered that he had an obligation to those kids to set a good example for them … He should’ve played by the rules in this case.”
“Rob Ford did this to Rob Ford,” he said.
Ford’s brother, Coun. Doug Ford, said the move was politically motivated.
“This is all about politics,” he told CityNews. “This about the social elites, the unions trying to stop us.”
Ford’s foundation, which isn’t affiliated with the city and was established in 2008, helps high school football teams pay for equipment.
Municipal law specialist John Mascarin described Monday’s ruling as “unprecedented in magnitude” and said Ford’s legal team can file an appeal in Ontario Divisional Court.
“He has 30 days under the rules to file that appeal,” he said. “At the same time he’ll apply to get a stay of the decision, which will allow him to continue to sit in … council for that period.”
Coun. Shelley Carroll, one of the mayor’s most-vocal critics, reacted to the ruling by saying “we certainly have some work to do.”
“One thing has been made very clear: you cannot dismiss our accountability processes. Coming out of the MFP computer scandal … we have put together the full suite,” she said. “We have an integrity commissioner, an ombudsman, an auditor-general, a lobbyist registrar, and you do not dismiss these people.”
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti added to the political drama, announcing he was stepping down from the mayor’s executive committee, saying the move was at the direction of his constituents.
“I feel that I might be handcuffed at times to be able to work with others,” he said.
“I’ll keep supporting the fiscal agenda down here but I think it’s best to sit back and try to work with all of council.”
Mammoliti earlier said he supports elevating Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday to the city’s top political post if Ford is removed from office.
If council doesn’t move to promote Holyday, he’d support a byelection.
Paul Magder, the man who filed the civil suit against Ford last March, described Monday’s events as a “sad.”
“It’s sad we spent so much time on this matter. We have a lot of terrible problems that need our attention,” he said.
Ford told the court in September he didn’t think he was breaking any rules because the situation wasn’t financially benefiting him personally, nor the city. He insisted he asked “anyone and everyone” for donations.
He also admitted he didn’t read the conflict-of-interest rules when he was first elected to council.
During the trial, Ruby said the mayor’s belief he was not in a conflict of interest was “simply not believable” for someone with 12 years experience on council.
In August 2010, Toronto’s integrity commissioner Janet Leiper concluded that Ford had breached the Municipal Code of Conduct for councillors when he solicited donations for his foundation from registered lobbyists and a corporation engaged in bidding on city contracts. Leiper said Ford, then a city councillor, improperly used his influence to get donations.
Leiper also found Ford and his staff used city resources — mailing out letters requesting donations using city letterhead — for his charity. Between 2009-10, Ford’s football charity received $3,150 in donations from lobbyists and corporations.
“In some cases, donations were made within several months before or after lobbying activity took place with Councillor Ford,” Leiper’s 2010 report stated.
Leiper called on Ford six times to repay the donations received from lobbyists and corporations. He never complied. Ford said he sent letters to donors offering to reimburse the money and some lobbyists refused.
On Feb. 7, Ford delivered an impassioned speech to councillors about his foundation. Councillors and the mayor voted 22-12 to drop the matter altogether.
“I’m very passionate about helping these kids,” Ford told city council at that meeting.
“The money goes directly to the Toronto Community Foundation. I don’t touch the money. … If there’s anything that’s more clear and above-board — I don’t know what that is.”
This is one of three court cases involving Ford since he became mayor. A local restaurateur launched a $6-million libel lawsuit against him. The trial wrapped up earlier this month and a verdict is expected in about two months. Ford also went to court to stop an audit of his campaign finances but his lawyers dropped the effort this spring.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland’s decision: