Monday’s shocking court ruling that found Mayor Rob Ford guilty of conflict of interest and ordered him removed from office means the mayor must leave office, allowing the business of the city to carry on, Willowdale Councillor David Shiner said.
“He got himself into this trouble and there’s no way out of it, except to leave office,” said Shiner, a member of Ford’s executive committee.
Shiner said the ruling appears to be unprecedented and called it a sad day for Toronto.
While Ford’s heart may have been in the right place in trying to get donations to benefit high school football, the ruling makes it clear “as mayor, you have to stand for all, you’re not above the law,” Shiner said.
“You have a responsibility, all of us do, as members of council to make sure you’re acting in a proper and responsible manner at all times. (If in doubt), you get outside legal counsel to see what you can and can’t do.”
York Centre Councillor Maria Augimeri agreed, saying she is proud of the judicial system for showing nobody is above the law and everyone, regardless of their status, must play by the rules.
The law is in place to protect the public against abuse, she said.
Ford has indicated he will fight the ruling, which said he should be removed from office in 14 days but gives him an opportunity to appeal the decision.
Justice Charles Hackland did not find Ford simply committed an error in judgment when he used city letterhead and other resources in seeking donations to his football foundation from people lobbying him, Shiner said.
“The judge found Rob Ford knew exactly what he was doing,” he said.
In 2010, the city’s integrity commissioner ruled Ford had been wrong to use city resources to solicit donations when he was a councillor. Council agreed and ordered him to repay $3,150.
After Ford didn’t repay the money despite six reminders from the integrity commissioner, the issue was brought back to council last February.
Ford made an emotional speech and voted with the majority of councillors who agreed he didn’t need to reimburse the donations.
While Ford didn’t personally benefit from the donations, he should have sought legal advice to determine if he would breach the Conflict of Interest Act by speaking and voting on the issue at council, Shiner said.
“I don’t think his actions were in any way meant to harm anyone,” he added.
Hackland’s ruling appears to ban Ford from running in a byelection before the end of the current term of council but doesn’t disqualify him from running in future elections.
Shiner would not say whether he thinks Ford should run for mayor again.
He is upset with some names being suggested as mayoral candidates, including Don Valley East Councillor Shelley Carroll, Trinity-Spadina Councillor Adam Vaughan and Trinity-Spadina New Democrat MP Olivia Chow, who is a former city councillor.
They would make council “substantially worse” because they are divisive, left-leaning and big spenders, Shiner said.
While he didn’t categorically rule out a run for mayor himself if there is a byelection, Shiner said he is satisfied with his job as councillor.
York West Councillor Anthony Perruzza and Willowdale Councillor John Filion would not comment on the court ruling or what next steps Ford should take.
They both said they hope the ruling doesn’t derail council from important city business over the second half of the council term.
“There’s potential for a lot of turmoil at city hall and we need to avoid that, regardless of who is mayor. We have two more years and we have to get critical work done,” Filion said.
“We’ve already got a polarized council. This should not be seen as an opportunity for maneuvering by one group or the other. If ever there was a time everybody should come together and work in the public interest, it is now. I’m the eternal optimist.”