Today Fri Sat
It is forecast to be Mostly Cloudy at 10:00 PM EST on November 27, 2014
Mostly Cloudy
2°/-5°
It is forecast to be Mostly Cloudy at 10:00 PM EST on November 28, 2014
Mostly Cloudy
-1°/-3°
It is forecast to be Chance of Snow at 10:00 PM EST on November 29, 2014
Chance of Snow
4°/3°

13 Comments

news

Rob Ford’s Day in Court: Today’s Hearing into Conflict of Interest Allegations

Live updates from the courtroom as the hearing into allegations that Rob Ford violated conflict of interest law gets underway.

Rob Ford leaving court after several hours of questioning.

4:53 PM The hearing is over for the day. It will resume at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, but Ford isn’t expected to testify again.

4:49 PM Ruby asks his final questions. Ford’s testimony is done. He leaves the witness stand and takes a seat at a table in front of the bench.

4:45 PM Ruby asks Ford whether his sentiment in the video is a direct contradiction of his current view that a conflict of interest requires some kind of financial benefit for the City. Ford says no.

4:41 PM Ruby shows a video of Ford declaring a conflict of interest on another report on him from the integrity commissioner. In the video, Ford clearly says that he will absent himself from the debate because it’s about him.

“On that day,” says Ruby, “you understood the simple principle is that if the report is about Rob Ford, [you can't particpate.]”

“I heard you speak the words,” Ruby continues. “Did you understand what you said?”

“No,” Ford says. He explains that he declared a conflict beacuse the City soclitior told him to.

4:33 PM Now Ruby is making a point that has something to do with an appointment to the board of the Toronto Region and Conservation Authority. I have to confess I’m not sure exactly what he’s referring to. Apparently the issue was that there was one spot on the board, and there was a choice between Doug Ford and Shelley Carroll (who is a left-leaning councillor) to fill it.

Ruby asserts that the city had no financial interest in who filled that board spot, but Ford disagrees. “My brother would be more fiscally responsible than Shelley Carroll, so it [that is, appointing him to the TRCA board] would save the City money.” Huge laugh from the gallery.

4:28 PM Now we’re going back over Ford’s personal interpretation of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

4:18 PM “I am not allowing any cross examination that is outside the scope of the integrity commissioner’s recommendations,” says the judge.

4:16 PM Lenczner rises again to object to the broadness of Ruby’s argument. “I think it’s all just designed to embarass,” Lenczner says. Character has nothing to do with this case, he tells the judge.

4:13 PM Ruby prepares to show some kind of video that he says will demonstrate ongoing problems with Ford’s use of city resources to promote his foundation, but the judge rules it irrelevant. “If there are problems that are going on at this time, and I’m not saying there aren’t, this is not the forum for them,” the judge says.

4:05 PM The judge seems to agree with Lenczner, at least in part. Of Ruby’s style of argument, the judge says: “Sometimes the probative value of it is outweighed by the time it takes.”

“If there’s an abbreviated version of that, perhaps…” he says. “I’m not suggesting it’s totally irrelevant.”

3:59 PM Ruby: “Do you operate your own Twitter account?” Lenczer rises again. “What does this have to do with anything?” he says. Ruby: “My argument is going to be that this man has lied…That’s my case, so I’m showing that in a number of areas, this being one of them…he just will not yield.”

“I want to show a pattern of behaviour that will show why the testimony he’s given here today is false.”

3:57 PM Ruby asks Ford if it’s true that the election website was only changed after Ruby brought the inaccuracy to Ford’s attention. After some hesitation, Ford seems admits that Ruby is right. Ruby presses him further: “Are you unable to remember whether you changed it before or after?” Ford: “I’m sorry, I don’t remember.”

3:52 PM Ruby says the integrity commissioner asked Ford to change the figure on his website, and asks Ford if he agreed to do that. “I can’t remember if I agreed or not,” says Ford. Then Ruby reads a quote from the deposition transcript in which Ford appears to say he did agree.

3:48 PM “I don’t have the exact number of what I’ve given personally, or what my foundation’s given,” says Ford.

3:45 PM Ruby reads out a contradictory answer Ford gave during his deposition. During the deposition, Ford said he had “recently” given money to bring the total contributions up to $100,000. Now, he seems to be saying that his contributions have mounted up over a number of years.

3:40 PM Ruby reminds Ford that he claimed, on his election website, that the foundation had raised over $100,000, whereas in reality it had raised less than $40,000. This information was in the integrity commissioner’s report. “Was she right?” asks Ruby. “I don’t think she took into consideration my personal contribution I made to Don Bosco,” says Ford. (Don Bosco is the high school where Ford coaches football.) He says he’s given them about $50,000.

3:38 PM Ruby asks whether Ford used his foundation during his campaign. “Used? What do you mean by used?” asks Ford. Ruby clarifies that he was referring to use in publicity materials, and Ford says he did use the foundation that way.

3:38 PM And we’re back.

The mayor's press secretary, George Christopoulos (left) and his brother, councillor Doug Ford, outside the University Avenue court house.

3:15 PM 20-minute recess. This liveblog will resume when court does.

3:13 PM Now Ruby is asking about a 2007 integrity commissioner’s report on Ford’s office expenses. This one, I think.

3:10 PM Ruby explains that his point was to establish that Ford could have challenged the 2010 decision that required him to pay back the money, but didn’t. His lawyer is trying to argue that the 2010 exceeded council’s authority. Ruby’s implication is apparently that Ford missed his chance to avail himself of that excuse.

3:08 PM It is almost impossible to hear anything the judge says in response. The room is cavernous and full of fluorescent-light buzzing. It swallows sound.

3:06 PM Lenczner, to the judge: “This is not an inquiry into other things that [Ford] may or may not have done in the past.”

3:04 PM Ruby asks whether Ford knew he could ask for judicial review of the council decision that required him to pay back the money. Lenczner rises again to object. His point seems to be that Ruby’s line of questioning isn’t relevant to the matter at hand.

3:01 PM In his answers, Ford keeps returning to the notion that it was somehow unfair for him to have needed to pay back the money out of his own pocket, especially after the lobbyists who gave it to his foundation told him they didn’t want it back.

2:54 PM Sorry for the delay. I’m having some internet issues. Lenczner has managed to object successfully to Ruby’s line of questioning. It was leading into a discussion of Ford’s dealings with the companies and lobbyists who donated improperly to his foundation. Ford expressed some skepticism that the individuals he was dealing with actually were lobbyists. He called them people the integrity commissioner “claims are lobbyists.”

Now, Ruby is asking questions about the February vote that was the impetus for today’s hearing.

2:41 PM “No, I never returned the $3,150,” Ford admits.

2:37 PM Now, onto the integrity commissioner’s recommendation that Ford pay back the money. “I didn’t receive any of the money,” says Ford. “If I received the money, then yes I understand I have to pay it back personally.”

2:30 PM Ruby is pressing Ford on why he ignored former Council Speaker Sandra Bussin when she warned him, during the August 2010 council meeting, that the donations issue was a conflict of interest for him. He explains, essentially, that he didn’t trust her. “I don’t really want to get into the relationship I had with the previous speaker,” he says. “It’s just, we didn’t agree on a lot of political issues.”

2:27 PM Now Ruby is going over the details of the first time Ford’s improper donations came to council, in August 2010.

2:20 PM Ruby reads from the section of city council’s code of conduct that forbids councillors from accepting gifts from lobbyists and their clients. “I never received a gift or a benefit,” says Ford. “Nor would I ever.”

2:14 PM Ruby is now reading from the integrity commisioner’s report on her dealings with Ford. She received complaints about his use of his office letterhead for fundraising, and passed those complaints along to Ford.

“If that’s what she said, I believe it happened,” Ford says. “Do you actually remember it?” Ruby asks. “No, I don’t remember,” says Ford. Ruby asks if Ford deliberately ignored the integrity commissioner without seeking legal advice. “I wouldn’t say ignore, but I probably disagreed with her at the time.”

2:14 PM “I changed my envelope, and I changed my letterhead, so I did what she asked me to do.”

2:10 PM Ruby is questioning Ford about his dealings with the integrity commissioner. “I vaguely remember talking to her.”

2:06 PM There are reports that Ford has changed his shirt. Ruby is blocking my view of him, so I can’t be sure.

2:03 PM We’re back in the courtroom after a tasty lunch at the cafeteria in the building’s sub-basement (try the french fries). The judge has just entered, now we’re underway. Ruby resumes his questioning where he left off.

Mayor Rob Ford leaving the courthouse at 361 University today, as the hearing into conflict of interest allegations broke for lunch.

1:00 PM Lunch break. Court is adjourned until 2 p.m.

12:59 PM “If I sit somewhere like a dinner party, or somewhere were I sit with people for a long period of time…sometimes I talk about my foundation. But not everyone I sit down with, I ask money [from],” says Ford. His point is that not everyone he gives his card to is someone he hits up for donations to his foundation.

12:57 PM We’re nearing the hour mark with this questioning. No sign of stopping.

12:54 PM “Do you think it’s a good idea to use that card,” Ruby asks, in light of the integrity commissioner’s report on the conflict between Ford’s position with the City and his foundation? Ford says he was never told he couldn’t use his card.

12:51 PM Ruby asks if Ford has a business card, and Ford, who hands them out to absolutely everyone he meets, naturally does. Ruby points out that the card has a picture of City Hall on it, and that Ford gives the card to people he solicits donations from.

12:50 PM Ruby asks Ford if he used his letterhead to solicit funds for his foundation. “I did that for a number of years, but I made a mistake and I changed it,” says Ford.

12:45 PM Ruby asks Ford if he planned to speak during the February vote and Ford says yes. Ruby asks if he had notes. “Very, very seldom do I prepare notes,” Ford says.

12:43 PM Ford clarifies that he doesn’t think conflicts of interest are inevitable for him, because he hasn’t had problems with them in the past.

12:42 PM Ford: “If the clerk woulda told me that I had a conflict…then I would have declared it, if I’d known I’d be here. But that wouldn’t stop me from running my foundation, helping kids out.”

12:41 PM “Mistakes could happen, yes. And I’ve made mistakes in the past. We all have,” says Ford, after Ruby rephrases the question.

12:40 PM Ruby asks if it’s inevitable that the mayor will make mistakes when dealing with conflicts of interest because of the volume of city council business. Lenczner objects to the question.

12:39 PM “You’ve been the mayor for the last little while. Do you agree that you have a special responsibility to lead in this area?” asks Ruby. “Not especially,” says Ford. “I’m just a member of council. I only have one vote.”

12:37 PM Ruby points out that the City solicitor isn’t a “mind reader” and can’t always know if councillors are potentially in conflict. “The whole world may know about Deco Labels, but I assume you have other financial interests,” says Ruby. “Yes,” says Ford.

12:35 PM Ruby points out that Ford has been inconsistent on this point.

12:32 PM Ruby is reading a part of the transcript where Ford appears confused as to whether or not staff are obligated to warn him of potential conflicts.

12:30 PM Now Ruby turns to Ford’s deposition, transcripts of which have been circulating online for weeks.

12:25 PM Ruby asks Ford if he thinks the City solicitor and the city clerk are obligated to warn him of potential conflicts. “Not part of their job description?” asks Ruby. “I don’t know what their job description is,” says Ford. Ruby pulls out a copy of the job descriptions. Lenczner objects that the descriptions aren’t in evidence, and that Ford has already conceded that staff have no obligation to warn him.

12:25 PM Ruby: Why didn’t you ask the clerk or the City solicitor if you were in conflict? “Because for 12 years, I always thought the Conflict of Interest Act—and I still believe—if it benefits the City, and it benefits a member of council, then you have a conflict,” says Ford.

12:23 PM Ruby’s cross examination is slow and deliberate, often with long pauses between questions. Ford is still very subdued. It’s hard to tell how he’s feeling.

12:20 PM Ford explains that most of the time, the clerk or the City solicitor inform councillors of potential conflicts.

12:18 PM “You’ve read it to me, but I’ve never read it,” says Ford to Ruby, of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. There is some stifled laughter from the gallery. “We don’t need any outbursts,” says the judge.

12:16 PM Ruby asks Ford if he realizes that the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act places the obligation on councillors to figure out if they might be in violation. “I’m not clear on the question,” Ford says. “Let’s take a look at the act,” Ruby says. He starts reading from a printed copy of the law.

12:14 PM Ford: “A few times I’ve been involved with the integrity commissioner.” It has arguably been more than a few.

12:11 PM Now Ruby is having Ford read from the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. Again, Ruby points out that there’s nothing about the City needing to have a financial interest. Ford says “yes.”

12:07 PM Ruby points out that the handbook says nothing about the City needing to have a financial interest in a matter in order for that matter to be subject to a conflict of interest. Ford has said that his understanding, prior to all this happening, was that a transaction needed to somehow benefit the City for it to be a potential conflict.

12:06 PM Ruby now instructs Ford to read from the council handbook—specifically the section related to the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. Ford obliges.

12:05 PM Also notable: a few minutes ago, Ford said that he didn’t attend council orientation sessions when he was first elected in 2000, because his dad was an MPP and he felt he knew how government worked.

12:00 PM Here, by the way, is video of the February vote that caused all this. Ford’s speech is about ten hours and six minutes in.

12:00 PM Ford seems calm and collected. 11:59 AM Ruby asks if Ford ever got a council handbook. “You say we did but I don’t remember ever getting a handbook,” Ford says.

11:58 AM Ruby asks Ford if he remembers his declaration of office, which includes a proviso that he will follow the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. Ford says yes.

11:57 AM Clayton Ruby is now cross-examining Ford. This is, essentially, the main event.

11:55 AM And we’re back. 11:33 AM Lenczner’s questions are over. Now we have a morning break. This liveblog will resume when court does.

11:33 AM Ford says he always declares conflicts when told to by City clerks or the City solicitor. In this case, none of them told him to do it. They were all in council chambers, Ford says. None of them raised an objection.

11:30 AM Lenczner gets Ford to explain that he didn’t think he had a conflict of interest when he voted and spoke on the donations in February. 11:27 AM Lenczner stops the video. Questioning resumes.

11:21 AM A surreal moment now, as Ford watches himself speak during the 2012 council meeting.

11:17 AM Here’s the record of that day’s vote.

11:14 AM Now onto the February, 2012 vote that was the source of all this trouble for Ford. The mayor says, under Lenczner’s questioning, that he was confused by the many motions on the item that day. “It was confusing, there was a lot of back and forth,” Ford says. “Would it be helpful if we showed you video?” asks Lenczner. Cue video of the council meeting on a flat screen to Ford’s right.

11:13 AM Ford says he offered to pay the lobbyists (and their clients) back in accordance with the council decision, but that they didn’t want the money. “They don’t want it. I don’t see why I have to pay it back if they don’t want it.”

11:11 AM Here’s the council record of that 2010 vote.

11:08 AM Now the questioning turns to a key point in Ruby’s argument, that Ford was warned, during the 2010 vote, that he was in conflict. Now-former Speaker Sandra Bussin warned him that he could be in conflict before he voted on a matter related to the improper donations. Ford says his understanding was that this didn’t put him in conflict. The vote wasn’t on the matter itself, but on whether to reopen the matter after it had been adopted without discussion.

11:04 AM Lenczner is now leading Ford through an explanation of the way council handles votes. The implication seems to be that there are way too many things on the average agenda for one guy to keep track of, and that Ford should be forgiven a mistake.

11:03 AM Our explainer is now up for you to read, if you like. 11:02 AM “Did you feel you were using influence to get these solicitations?” Lenczner asks. “Not at all,” Ford says. 11:01 AM Ford says he personally paid for the City letterhead and stamps he used to solicit the improper donations. One staffer helped him stuff envelopes.

10:59 AM Lenczner now inquires whether Ford actually benefitted from those donations. “Did you receive a…gift or personal benefit?” “No,” Ford says.

10:59 AM Now we’re on to the first vote on the improper donations, which happened in August 2010. Lenczner is walking Ford through the details.

10:58 AM Lenczner establishes that Ford is, however, involved in soliciting donations.

10:57 AM Lenczner asks if any of the money is handled by Ford. “No sir, I don’t sign the checks…It goes to the Toronto Community Foundation.”

10:56 AM Ford is now explaining how the charity works. It’s all administered by the Toronto Community Foundation.

10:55 AM Lenczner asks how much it costs to outfit a football team. $400 per player Ford says, and gives his most detailed answer yet, listing every piece of equipment.

10:54 AM Lenczner asks Ford why he started his football foundation. “To fundraise money to buy football equipment for kids in needy areas, high-priority neighbourhoods,” the mayor replies.

10:53 AM Ford sounds solemn, and very hoarse. 10:52 AM Lenczner is now examining Ford. Asking him about his work and educational history to the present. “It is my understanding you went to high school.” “Yes.”

10:51 AM Lenczner is done. Ford is taking the stand now. He raises his right hand and his sworn in. He introduces himself as “Robert Bruce Ford,” spells his name for the record.

10:50 AM Now, onto the arguments Lenczner will use in case the Municipal Conflict of Interest act DOES apply. The first is that Ford simply erred in judgement. He has declared conflicts in the past. This time was a mistake.

10:49 AM “There’s no lack of transparency, which is what the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act is all about.” 10:47 AM Lenczner now shifts to another argument, that the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act doesn’t apply to Ford’s case. “The matter is when there is a conflict between a piece of city business and the councillor’s own interest in that city business,” he says. This case, he adds, is about the personal conduct of “Mr. Ford.”

10:45 AM Lenczner is now arguing that council exceeded its authority when it asked Ford to pay back the donations in the first place.

10:41 AM Lenczner emphasizes that “we’re not here” to talk about Ford’s conduct on other occasions. Ruby is expected to argue the contrary: that Ford’s vote was part of a pattern of willful, reckless behaviour, and that it’s all relevant to this hearing.

10:40 AM Ford’s attorney, Alan Lenczner, is now speaking.

10:38 AM Ruby is now arguing that Ford had a financial interest in not paying back the donations, which if true would amount to a violation of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. “The only person hurt by this is Rob Ford,” he says of paying back the money.

10:35 AM Ruby addresses Ford’s expected error-in-judgment defense, which would allow him to keep his job if found guilty of violating the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. “If so,” Ruby says, “it’s an unusual error in judgment, because that error continues to this day…He [that is, Ford] says he has no regrets.”

10:34 AM Ruby is now recapping the facts of the case. We’ll have those for you in an explainer post shortly.

10:31 AM: “The more attractive the cause or charity, the more danger that something important will be overlooked,” says Ruby. His opening statement is a kind of homily on the dangers of undue lobbyist influence.

10:28 AM: Opening statements from Clayton Ruby right now. Ford will be cross-examined by Ruby after opening statements from both sides are done.

10:24 AM: The judge enters. We’re underway. The judge will permit Twitter in the courtroom, but no photography, phone calls. Recording only to supplement written notes, not for broadcast or upload.

10:16 AM: The lawyers have re-entered the room. Clayton Ruby swivels around in his chair for a look at the gallery, which is now pretty packed.

10:06 AM: All the attorneys were called out of the room ten minutes or so ago. Rob Ford sits alone.

10:05 AM: And now brother Doug Ford is here. He takes a seat in the front row, next to the Mayor’s staff.

10:01 AM: Ford takes a seat at the centre of the courtroom. Mark Towhey, his new chief of staff, is also here.

9:58 AM: Rob Ford has arrived. A literal hush falls over the room as two dozen reporters stop chatting and reach for their phones.

9:56 AM: The courtroom still isn’t quite full. Attorneys and court staff are filtering in. There’s a TV with video of Ford’s fateful vote cued up.

9:27 AM: We’re now inside the courtroom. Lots of phones and laptops out, and so far nobody is being ejected. The guards seem confused.

9:08 AM: The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. The word at the moment is that there will be no electronic devices inside. That could change.

9:07 AM: The scene in the hallway outside the courtroom where Mayor Ford’s CoI hearing will take place. About 40 people here.

QUICK REFERENCE

Comments