On Monday, Jan. 7, morning, lawyers for Mayor Rob Ford will be in an Osgoode Hall courtroom, making a final pitch to keep Ford in office following his conviction for violating the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
If the three-judge Divisional Court panel doesn’t agree with the arguments put forward by Ford’s lawyer Alan Lenczner, then the decision by Superior Court Judge Charles Hackland will stand, and the office of mayor will be declared vacant.
Hackland found Ford guilty of violating the MCIA after Ford spoke and voted on a report by the city’s integrity commissioner, recommending council enforce her ruling requiring Ford to repay $3,150 in donations by lobbyists to his football charity.
The MCIA requires elected officials absent themselves from both debate and voting on matters in which they have a financial interest. And it sets as a minimum penalty the immediate removal from office. That was the penalty Hackland chose.
Lanczner is appealing Hackland’s decision on four grounds according to a factum he filed with the court.
He will argue council never had the power to force the mayor to repay any money, that the council code of conduct – which formed the basis of the integrity commissioner’s decision – isn’t covered by the MCIA; that the act should only apply to matters in which the council stands to gain or lose a financial advantage; and that the amount of money should be considered insignificant. Finally, he will argue Ford committed an error in judgement.
Lawyer Clayton Ruby will also be in court on behalf of his client Paul Magder, arguing Hackland did not misinterpret the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, and that the sentence should stand and Ford should be removed from office.
Should the court uphold the decision, Toronto Council will have some decisions to make.
First, it will have 60 days to decide whether to hold a byelection or to appoint a mayor to sit out the remainder of the term.
Mayor Ford has said he would stand for reappointment should that be council’s decision, but would also run in a byelection.