The mayor testifies in court next week. We already have a pretty clear picture of what he and his lawyers will be saying.
Mayor Rob Ford will testify in court on September 5, as he attempts to defend himself against conflict-of-interest allegations that could cost him his job. We’ve just obtained a complete copy of the document that summarizes the arguments his lawyers will be making in his defense. It’s after the jump.
For those who haven’t been keeping up with this imbroglio, here’s a quick summary of the events that got us here:
In 2010, the City’s integrity commissioner found that Ford—who at that time was still a councillor—had violated the City’s political code of conduct. He’d done this by using his official letterhead to solicit donations from lobbyists and corporations for his private charitable organization, the Rob Ford Football Foundation.
The City’s code of conduct forbids politicians from accepting certain kinds of gifts, from using political influence for private gain, and from using City resources for non-City business. The integrity commissioner found Ford had done all of those things. At its next meeting, council imposed a penalty: the councillor would reimburse $3,150 worth of improper donations.
Ford never paid back the money, even though the integrity commissioner reminded him to do so six times. The matter came to council a second time, in February 2012, after Ford had become mayor. A majority of council voted to rescind the earlier decision to make him pay. Ford spoke on the matter and voted with them, and that’s why he’s in trouble today.
On behalf of Paul Magder, a Toronto resident, lawyer Clayton Ruby brought the conflict-of-interest suit against Ford in March. Magder and Ruby allege that by speaking and voting on the reimbursement, Ford used his political power to sway a matter that he had a financial interest in. What he should have done, they say, is recuse himself from the vote. Councillors usually do that voluntarily whenever they think they have a personal conflict.
If Ford did violate the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, he would lose his seat as mayor, unless it could be demonstrated that he acted inadvertently, erred in judgment, or that the sum of money involved wasn’t significant.
The document embedded below is a written statement of the facts of the case as seen from Ford’s lawyers’ point of view. It’s called a factum. This, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, will be the defense Ford will use next week at his hearing.
What it says, essentially, is that:
- The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and its harsh penalties don’t apply to the case, because Ford was voting on a matter subject to council’s own code of conduct, which derives its authority from a different piece of legislation, the City of Toronto Act.
- City council didn’t have the authority to levy the $3,150 fine in the first place, because the code of conduct doesn’t allow them to.
- If the judge agrees with neither of those points, then it can at least be said that Ford’s mistake was nothing more than an error of judgment. He has declared conflicts in the past. The complexity of the vote confused him, and he didn’t realize he was in the wrong.
- Also, $3,150 is insignificant. Ford would never knowingly have jeopardized his job over such a small amount.
The full text is here:
This article originally misspelled Paul Magder’s surname. We regret the error.