What happens to Rob Ford now?
Rob Ford's first stint as mayor came to a screeching halt today barely halfway through his four-year term of office. Justice Charles Hackland, a Superior Court judge, ruled the mayor breached the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act by voting on an item at council in which he had a pecuniary interest earlier this year. As a result, he ordered Ford removed from office within 14 days.
So what happens now? Rob Ford has already vowed to fight "tooth and nail" against the decision by launching a formal appeal. Initiating that process will likely delay his removal beyond the two-week transition period prescribed by the judge for several months until his appeal can be heard and considered.
It's not clear whether Ford has good grounds for an appeal. Afterall, the judge left little room for ambiguity when he said the mayor's actions were "characterized by ignorance of the law and a lack of diligence in securing professional advice, amounting to wilful ignorance."
Hackland said Ford "failed to show his contraventions of the MCIA were the result of a good faith error in judgement." The rules don't allow for much leeway in terms of punishment.
There are some grey areas in the 24-page ruling, though. No-one is quite sure yet whether Ford would be allowed to participate in a by-election to fill his vacant seat if council decides not to appoint a replacement from within. Since Justice Hackland could find no reason to ban Ford from seeking re-election there's a reasonable chance the Etobicoke councillor's name will be on a ballot again between now and 2014.
In the words of councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who resigned his position on the mayor's executive committee in the aftermath of today's decision, apparently on the advice of his constituents, it's going to be a "rocky road over next few months."
Council is due back in session at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Rob Ford has already said he won't be there: his Don Bosco Eagles are playing for the Metro Bowl at the Rogers Centre. Business as usual for the man at the top of the pile a little while longer.
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.