As the City Council voted Friday to strip Mayor Rob Ford of most of his powers ahead of its stated plan to take away the remainder Monday, a story surfaces revealing Ford has been officially removed from office, before.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland rendered a decision nearly a year ago ordering Ford to abdicate in light of his violation of the Toronto Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and related actions that followed.
“I declare the seat of the respondent, Robert Ford, on Toronto City Council, vacant,” Hackland concluded in a Nov. 26, 2012 decision that garnered much press in Toronto, but has been little cited in the U.S.
According to court papers published in the Toronto Star, the story centers upon a lawsuit filed by Paul Magder, a Toronto voter, related to an August 25, 2010 report by the city’s Integrity Commissioner, in which she found Ford, “used the City of Toronto logo, his status as a City Councillor, and City of Toronto resources to solicit funds for a private football foundation he created in his name."
Specifically, lobbyists, clients of lobbyists and a corporation that does work for the city donated $3,150 to the Rob Ford Football Foundation. In the report, the Integrity Commissioner recommended the City Council order Ford pay the money back.
The City Council initially approved the report the same day it was filed. But it then reconsidered the matter and held a fateful second vote.
Council Speaker Sandra Bussin asked Ford prior to the vote, according to Hackland’s decision, “This matter deals with an issue regarding your conduct. Do you intend to declare a conflict? You are voting? Okay.”
Ford then voted against his having to make restitution, but the matter carried the council, anyway. Ford not only never paid the money back to the donors, but he also ignored letters the integrity commissioner sent him on Aug. 31, 2010, Sept. 15, 2010, May 10, 2011, June 7, 2011 and July 4, 2011 reminding him to do so.
The Council revisited it all on Feb. 7, 2012, at which time Ford said, “To ask that I pay it out of my own pocket personally, there is just, there is no sense to this. The money is gone; the money has been spent on football equipment.”
After Ford’s explanation, the council took up a motion to nix its earlier order he repay the money. Again, Ford voted on the measure, even though he had financial interest in its result. The motion carried 22-to-12 in his favor.
Magder then filed suit.
Ford – in foreshadowing a pattern re-emerging in 2013 – told the court that not only was the donation so small as to be unworthy of discussion, but he had run afoul of the city conflict of interest regulations accidentally.
Hackland didn’t buy any of it, and wrote in his decision, “In view of the (Ford’s) leadership role in ensuring integrity in municipal government, it is difficult to accept an error in judgment (defense) 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.” He then ordered him removed from office.
But Ford lived to fight another day, taking the matter up with an appellate court. Then – and in January – the court ruled in Ford’s favor, not so much saying he was justified in any of his actions, but that the City Council had overstepped its jurisdiction in voting to force him to repay the $3,150. Since the vote should never have occurred, the appellate court ruled the fact that Ford had voted on the motion didn’t matter.
“The court let Rob Ford off on a technicality,” Clayton Ruby, the lawyer who filed the case for Magder, reportedly said after the decision, while Ford, for his part, addressed the media and referred to it all as, “very humbling.”