toronto mayor rob ford

What we learned on day one of Rob Ford's trial

Testifying before a packed University Ave. courtroom yesterday, mayor Rob Ford told lawyer Clayton Ruby that he has never read crucial parts of the provincial conflict-of-interest legislation it's alleged he breached earlier this year. Revealing the basis of his defense, Ford repeatedly suggested he unwittingly broke the rules when he voted to overturn a decision by council that ordered he pay back $3,150 in lobbyist donations to his football foundation.

Ford will keep his job if the judge decides any breach of the rules was accidental - an angle the mayor seems to be playing up with persistent stonewalling and redefinition of the conflict-of-interest laws based on his own, apparently confused, ideas.

During a four-hour cross-examination, Ford told Ruby that he believes conflicts of interest only occur when the city and the councillor are both set to gain financially - something not reflected in the official wording. Ruby answered by detailing other times the mayor had correctly stepped aside to avoid a conflict.

Throughout the exchange, the mayor maintained he had never actually read the legislation in question - despite being handed briefing materials on four separate occasions - and said he waits for city legal staff to advise him of any conflicts before a vote, providing very similar statements to those he made in an earlier deposition.

In order to win the case, Ruby must to prove to the judge that Ford knowingly voted to save himself $3,150 or, as he put it yesterday, "whether it is an honest and good faith belief, or just a smoke screen for determined defiance of the integrity commissioner's continuing critical examination of [the mayor's] affairs."

Speaking about the foundation that helps schools start football programs, Ford restated his emotional commitment to community work and told the judge he gives out his business card - bearing the city logo and his title - when to everyone he meets, which he follows up with a request for a donation.

Ford's lawyer, Alan Lenczner, told Justice Hackland that the provincial conflict of interest laws don't apply in this case because the matter is related to a code of conduct matter - Ford's failure to refund donations - and not a city council matter.

The trial resumes later this morning and a decision by Justice Charles Hackland is expected at a later date.

Image: "Good Friday parade, Little Italy, Toronto" by BruceK in the blogTO Flickr pool.


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