A Toronto judge has ordered the mayor of the Canada’s largest city removed from office, finding Rob Ford broke conflict-of-interest rules.
TORONTO — Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been ordered out of office after a judge ruled Monday he broke conflict of interest rules.
Ford was accused of not declaring a conflict of interest when he participated in a council vote to recommend he repay donations that he solicited for his private football foundation using official city letterhead.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland said Ford’s actions were characterized by “ignorance of the law and a lack of diligence in securing professional advice amounting to wilful blindness.”
“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.
The mayor testified at the trial in September and told court he believed he did nothing wrong, while lawyer Clayton Ruby argued Ford acted in bad faith by not familiarizing himself with the city’s conflict of interest rules.
Hackland said Monday that Ford’s actions “were not done by reason of inadvertence or a good faith error in judgment.”
The lawsuit was launched by Toronto resident Paul Magder.
“Rob Ford did this to Rob Ford,” Ruby, who represented Magder, told reporters after the ruling.
“Today’s decision shows that when you break the rules there’s a price to pay. It’s important for the courts to assert that nobody is above the law, Rob Ford included.”
Ken Garnum, a Toronto resident who was carrying a sign outside city hall reading “worst mayor ever, goodbye,” said he was “thrilled” at the news.
“I don’t think he’s evil,” Garnum said.
“He just can’t tell the difference between right and wrong so it’s best he says goodbye.”
Ford had said he didn’t remember receiving or reading a handbook for municipal councillors that outlines when to declare conflict of interest or the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, which he was accused of breaking.
In 2010, Ford used his staff to help send out donation requests for his football fund and mail them out to donors who had officially lobbied the city government.
The city’s integrity commissioner found Ford’s actions broke the conduct code for councillors and recommended he pay back $3,150 to the donors from his own pocket.
Council adopted the commissioner’s findings and sanction in a resolution Ford voted against — but he never made the repayments, despite several reminders from the commissioner.
Council later voted to overturn the integrity commissioner’s penalty. Ford voted in favour of the motion that would allow him to keep the money.
Hackland said Ford contravened the act when he spoke and voted on a matter in which he had a pecuniary interest.
The judge disqualified Ford from running again during this term of office and put his declaration on hold for 14 days to give the city time to make plans to deal with the situation.
Ford can appeal the ruling.