Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ford’s fate now rests with judges

TORONTO—Rob Ford’s fate as mayor of Toronto rested in the hands of three judges yesterday after a day of largely technical arguments for and against a court ruling that he should be removed from office for conflict of interest.
The mayor’s lawyer told the Divisional Court panel that Ford was an open and honest politician ordered to forfeit his job by a judge who had misinterpreted the law.

Ford’s opponents countered the mayor deliberately had flouted conflict-of-interest rules, and the judge’s ruling requires deference as long as it was reasonable.
In calling for Divisional Court to overturn Ford’s ouster, lawyer Alan Lenczner said there never was any case against the mayor.
Ford, Lenczner said, gained no financial benefit from fundraising for his private football foundation, and was upfront when he spoke during a council vote that he only was trying to help disadvantaged youth.
“He was perfectly plain and honest,” Lenczner told a jammed courtroom.
“This is the hallmark of an honest man.”
In November, Ontario Superior Justice Charles Hackland ordered Ford removed as mayor for taking part in the vote that he repay $3,150 raised for the foundation.
The ruling was put on hold pending Ford’s appeal.
Lenczner said Ford’s decision to participate was based on his belief that he had done nothing wrong.
“It’s not the amount of money that is motivating him to speak and to vote, it’s the principle of the thing,” the lawyer told the three-judge appeal panel.
In his ruling, Hackland said Ford had shown “wilful blindness” to conflict rules by voting on a matter in which he had a financial interest.
But Lenczner said the judge had failed to give Ford the benefit of a “saving provision” in the conflict act: that his conduct was an error of judgment.
Hackland ruled that Ford received no money personally and found no issue of corruption, Lenczner noted.
But lawyers for resident Paul Magder, who brought the initial action against Ford, argued Hackland’s ruling should stand.
One of them, Clayton Ruby, rejected the notion Ford had made an “honest, good-faith error in judgment.”
The mayor had refused to co-operate with the city’s integrity commissioner, who warned Ford against taking part in the vote.
Ford, along with his councillor brother, Doug, showed little emotion as they watched the proceedings before Justices Edward Then, Lynne Leitch and Katherine Swinton.
For his part, Lenczner said the mayor could not have been expected to understand the legal intricacies at play.
“Mr. Ford is a high school graduate,” the lawyer told court.
If Ford loses his appeal, he has said he would run in a byelection if council chooses to call one.
Council also could opt to appoint someone mayor instead of holding a byelection.
The three Divisional Court judges reserved their decision.

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