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10 Comments

politics

Read a Full Summary of Mayor Rob Ford’s Conflict-of-Interest Defense

The mayor testifies in court next week. We already have a pretty clear picture of what he and his lawyers will be saying.

Photo by {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/samanthatan/4823071184/"}Samantha_Tan{/a}, from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/"}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

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:

Respondent’s Factum 2

CORRECTION: September 4, 2012, 4:24 PM This article originally misspelled Paul Magder’s surname. We regret the error.

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/wormx Stephen Jerrett

    With Ford denying he did anything wrong, and that this is just “political,” then how can he argue that he made an error in judgement. He knows the facts now. With knowledge after the fact, he should be able to say, “don’t blame me — I made a mistake unknowingly.” But he isn’t — he’s saying he made no mistake.

    • Anonymous

      And what he says publicly from now to when he takes the stand can be questioned. It’s perfect actually, especially because his character is in question at the upcoming hearing.

  • Eric S. Smith

    Boy, “erred in judgment” sounds like a get out of jail free card, and so does “the sum of money involved wasn’t significant.”

    • Anonymous

      “yeah, I totally didn’t mean to pull the trigger when I pointed the gun at that guy’s head, your honour, sorry d00d, error in judgement, my bad.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Justin-Flontek/100003898558870 Justin Flontek

    Kick him out. Politicians should be held to the highest of standards and Ford falls horrible far behind.

  • Anonymous

    “unless it could be demonstrated that he acted inadvertently, erred in judgment, or that the sum of money involved wasn’t significant.”

    AFAIK the sum of money is actually irrelevant and not protected under this particular law.

    And not to nitpick but acting inadvertently and erring in judgement are kinda redundant, no?

    • Anonymous

      The sum matters because there is a clause in the municipal COI legislation which stipulates that the rules regarding conflicts when you have a pecuniary interest don’t apply “by reason only of an interest of the member which is so remote or
      insignificant in its nature that it cannot reasonably be regarded as
      likely to influence the member.” (i.e. if you are talking about a trivial sum, there’s no reasonable expectation that the sum will influence the elected official, and thus no question of having interests than can be in conflict.)

      • Anonymous

        This is not to argue the point with you, TorontoistEditors, but if Rob Ford felt the sum was indeed trivial, by virtue of him being rich and all, why didn’t he just repay it out of his own pocket when the city integrity commissioner repeatredly warned him to do so, beginning in 2009? What Ford seems to be trying on here, is to ‘push the envelope’ that it’s now acceptable to solicit ‘donations’ (or if you like, bribes) to his private foundation (the “Rob Ford Foundation”), from lobbyists acting on behalf of companies doing business with the city. And according to the legislation, that is not acceptable, or legal, even if Rob Ford feels it ought to be.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for clarifying both points. After review, I stand corrected.

    • Anonymous

      Re: inadvertent vs error in judgment: that phrasing comes directly from the legislative language, and to the best of our understanding the tests for each in court are someone separate. (For instance, the applicant’s factum has separate sections, with separate arguments and citing separate case law, for each of the two terms.)