Rob Ford removed as mayor of Toronto
Rob Ford is on his way out as mayor of Toronto. Justice Charles Hackland ruled this morning that Ford breached the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act with his actions at a council meeting earlier this year. He has 14 days to organize a transition to a new leader.
The case, brought by Toronto resident Paul Magder and handled in court by lawyer Clayton Ruby, stemmed from $3,150 in corporate and lobbyist donations to Rob Ford's private football charity that council's integrity commissioner Janet Leiper found were wrongly solicited using the mayor's official letterhead.
Council initially voted to make Ford return the money out of his own pocket but later had a change of heart in a later ballot on the matter. Instead of abstaining, the mayor voted to allow himself to keep the money the second time around, breaching the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. The cash was never returned despite several reminders.
Ford has a chance to appeal as Justice Hackland declined to block the mayor from seeking re-election. It's not clear at this stage whether Ford can run in a by-election - if the city decides to hold one - to fill his vacant seat.
Here's the full text of the decision:
Here are some of the key quotes from the ruling.
"In my opinion, [Ford's] actions were characterized by ignorance of the law and a lack of diligence in securing professional advice, amounting to wilful ignorance."
"[Ford] has failed to show his contraventions of the MCIA were the result of a good faith error in judgement."
"Accordingly, I declare the seat of the respondent, Robert Ford, on Toronto City Council, vacant."
It's still not clear whether Ford can run in a by-election immediately upon his removal. The City of Toronto Act suggests anyone who did take over as mayor would have a two-year term and have to run again with other members of council in 2014.
Clayton Ruby, the lawyer who represented Paul Magder, is due to speak immanently.
Clayton Ruby, speaking at a press conference, says "nobody is above the law, Rob Ford included," continues that "he should have played by the rules of council."
"While we are pleased to have won this case, we are also deeply saddened by it" .... "Rob Ford did this to Rob Ford." Paul Magder, who brought the case against Ford, says "this is a sad day for Torontonians."
No word from the mayor's camp yet.
Rob Ford still hasn't released a statement or addressed the media about his removal from office but, we hear, he's still scheduled to launch his Christmas toy drive at 1 pm. This could get weird.
Meanwhile, an ad for a "used Ford" has appeared on Craigslist. A bargain at a $1.
Rob Ford has just spoken to the media. "I'm a fighter," he says "I've done a lot of great work for the city. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose." He also says he will "fight tooth and nail" to keep his job as mayor.
There's going to be an appeal too. Ford calls the decision "left wing politics." The CBC's John Lancaster notes calling the judge's ruling "a political decision" is risky, advises there are rules in place about discussing decisions of the court.
Launching his second annual toy drive in the rotunda at City Hall, the mayor appeared visibly stressed and his voice broke several times. He congratulated the Argonauts on their Grey Cup win and said the campaign that distributes presents to toy drive programs "means a great deal" to him.
No mention of the court case, though he did scrum with media shortly before going before the cameras. Ford still says he will appeal the decision and stand in a by-election, if he's able.
Things starting to settle a little now. Doug Ford says supporters of the mayor should head to the Rogers Centre tomorrow and cheer the Don Bosco Eagles to victory in the Metro Bowl. Looks like the mayor, if he can still be called that, will be missing the council meeting scheduled for that day.
Meanwhile, legal experts continue to discuss the ruling. According to Global's Jackson Proskow on Twitter, those in the know say Ford has grounds for a stay while he appeals but that he's ultimately unlikely to get the judge's decision overturned. Elsewhere, the Ford story has reached the frigid shores of Iceland (via Daniel Dale - @ddale8)
We've had first movement on city council as a result of this morning's decision. Giorgio Mammoliti, a recent staunch Ford ally, says he's resigning from the mayor's executive committee, saying "some are suggesting that we rethink the political approach, and I have to start thinking about that."
Here's something a little more considered on what lies ahead for Rob Ford to wrap up.
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.
Photo: "Good Friday parade, Little Italy, Toronto" by BruceK in the blogTO Flickr pool.
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