Mayor Rob Ford is “very pleased” with Wednesday morning’s Superior Court decision allowing him to stay in office at least until early 2013.
“I’m very pleased with today’s decision I can’t wait for the appeal and I’m going to carry on doing what the people elected me to do,” said Ford on Dec. 5.
Ford made the statement minutes after Justice Gadys Pardu agreed to grant a stay on the sentence by Justice Charles Hackland, that would have seen Ford thrown out of office this coming Monday.
Hackland had found Ford guilty of violating the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA) because he voted on a report from the integrity commissioner recommending he be made to return $3,150 in donations to his personal football charity.
The act prevents politicians from speaking or voting on matters in which they have a financial interest. The minimum sentence available to a judge in the matter of a guilty plea is to declare the seat vacant.
Should that happen, council would have two months to decide whether to appoint a successor or hold a byelection.
Because Ford is appealing the matter to the Divisional Court, however, removing the mayor from office could create what many observers have called a “nightmare scenario” – one in which Council has appointed a successor prior to Ford winning an appeal.
That scenario was one of the arguments that Ford’s lawyer Alan Lenczner brought before Pardu in requesting a stay of the decision, until after the appeal - scheduled for Jan. 7 - is heard and decided.
Lenczner said that the removal of Ford without having his appeal heard would cause “irreparable harm to him.”
Lenczner also presented a precis of the arguments he would be making in January: that council never had the authority to force Ford to repay the money; that Ford had made an error in judgement in his understanding of how the MCIA might apply, and that the amount of money to be repaid was not significant.
Justice Hackland’s findings on these matters to the contrary was significant in the decision he rendered. Clayton Ruby, lawyer for the complainant Paul Magder, told the judge that he didn’t object to a stay because the matter was being dealt with promptly at Divisional Court. At the end of the hearing, lawyers agreed to assess costs at a later date.
For his part, Ford appeared unconcerned about the costs when asked about it by reporters.
“Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t matter,” he said. Ford said he will simply continue to do his job until the appeal is heard. “I just go to work every day and run the city and respect the taxpayers,” he said. “That’s what people elected me to do. You got to always be prepared for the worst. I’m very glad I got the stay today. Returning calls and meeting with people.”
In an interview later Wednesday, Ford’s brother Etobicoke North Councillor Doug Ford said his brother wouldn’t have a problem governing in the interim, between the stay and the results of his appeal.
“We’ll govern the same way we’re governing in the budget committee,” he said. “We’re getting the budgets through.”
Doug Ford went on to say that his brother has been “maturing” into his job as mayor, despite numerous missteps.
“In any position, you mature in your position in the way of understanding the role a little better. Any leader, they’re different four years into the term as opposed to their first year, their second year...Rob has made mistakes, he’s acknowledged some of the mistakes he’s made and he’s going to correct them at the end of the day. He’s the mayor and he has to be held accountable and he is being held accountable.”