Toronto Mayor Rob Ford can keep his job after winning an appeal of a court ruling that had found him in conflict of interest over donations collected for his high school football charity.
A divisional court today struck down a Nov. 26 verdict by Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland that Ford was in conflict and must vacate his seat after he voted on a motion that ordered him to repay donations he had solicited for the charity.
The mayor of Canada’s largest city had been accused by citizen Paul Magder of breaking the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act in 2011. Lawyer Clayton Ruby took the case for Magder, which sought to remove Ford, 43, from City Council and prevent him from running in the next election.
“The job is not finished yet,” Ford said at a press conference at city hall.
According to an investigation by Janet Leiper, the City of Toronto’s Integrity Commissioner, when Ford was councilor for Etobicoke North in 2010 he solicited C$3,150 ($3,120) in donations from lobbyists for his private charity, the Rob Ford Football Foundation, by using the City of Toronto logo, his status as a city councilor, and city resources while lobbying.
In August 2010 council ordered Ford to repay the donations made to his foundation. Ford refused, ignoring multiple written requests from the commissioner’s office and later voted on a council motion relieving himself of the responsibility to repay the donations, the November ruling said.
“We conclude that the application judge erred in finding that Mr. Ford contravened the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act,” the ruling from the three-member panel of the court said. “Accordingly, we would allow the appeal.”
The initial report that was tabled by the integrity commissioner and approved by city council was null because of the “financial nature” it imposed, the verdict said. The decision went beyond the city’s code of conduct “because it required Mr. Ford to reimburse funds which he never received personally.”
“Did Mr. Ford have a pecuniary interest in that matter? In our view, he did not,” the ruling said.
Ruby will ask the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal to the decision.
“The Court has let Rob Ford off on a technicality,” he said in a statement.
Ford, who campaigned for mayor with the slogan “Stop the Gravy Train” has clashed with a council that often overruled him. While getting elected in October 2010 with 47 percent of the vote on a vow to expand the city’s subway system, council endorsed a plan for surface rail instead. He has faced opposition on council in his drive to cut costs by contracting out services such as garbage collection.
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