"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Mayor Rob Ford ponders losing his job in conflict of interest case

Published 38 minutes ago

MIKE STURK/REUTERS Mayor Rob Ford said he will be grilled on the witness stand next Wednesday by renowned lawyer Clayton Ruby.
David Rider
Urban Affairs Bureau Chief
Famously combative Mayor Rob Ford sounds resigned to the possibility he might be kicked out of office over a conflict-of-interest allegation a lawyer says is consistent with past actions “as if the rules do not apply to him.”
Appearing on Newstalk 1010 on Tuesday, Ford noted he will be grilled on the witness stand next Wednesday by renowned lawyer Clayton Ruby.
A lawsuit accuses Ford of breaking provincial law in February by speaking and voting on whether he should have to pay back $3,150 in donations to his football foundation from lobbyists and a corporation.
“It really bothers me,” Ford said of the suit brought by Toronto resident Paul Magder. He then lauded his foundation’s work giving equipment to schools to start football programs.
Ruby is “going to cross-examine me and they want me out of office, and if I lose the court case I guess I lose my job and, uh, I don’t know, it really bothers me, it really bothers me, so just hope for the best,” he said.
Ford agreed with host Jim Richards that the conflict suit is a backdoor attempt to force him from office.
“If you don’t like what I’m doing then there’s an election Oct 27, 2014, it’s two years away, then have your say,” the mayor said. “But I don’t think it’s right what’s going on.”
If Ford took part in a debate or vote in which he had a conflict of interest, the province’s Municipal Conflict of Interest Act decrees the judge “shall” force him out of office and “may” bar him from rejoining council for up to seven years.
If guilty, Ford could keep his job only if Justice Charles Hackland found he made an “error of judgment or inadvertence” or that the sum involved was “insignificant.”
The mayor talked to the radio station as reporters got court office access to Magder’s “factum” that argues Ford knowingly broke the rules as part of a pattern of defiance, so Hackland must decree the mayor’s seat “vacant.”
Council could then call a mayoral byelection or appoint somebody to replace him for the remainder of his term.
In 2010, city integrity commissioner Janet Leiper recommended council sanction Ford for using council letterhead and city resources to solicit donations for the foundation, and pay back donations from lobbyists and a business representative with whom Ford had met.
Council agreed. Ford voted against the recommendation, although then-speaker Sandra Bussin advised he appeared to be in a conflict.
Ford ignored Leiper’s six subsequent requests for proof he had repaid the $3,150. When the matter came back to council in February, Ford made an impassioned speech about the work of his foundation and said: “To ask for me to pay it out of my own pocket, personally — there’s just no sense to this ... The money’s been spent on football equipment.”
Ruby argues Ford admitted a “pecuniary” interest when he said the cash would come out of his pocket.
As for any argument the millionaire Ford makes about the sum being “insignificant,” Ruby wrote: “It takes a long time and a good deal of hard work for an ordinary Canadian to earn $3,150.00 … the respondent focused on the perceived unfairness of forcing him to reimburse such a sum out of his ‘own pocket.’ It certainly mattered to him.”
Rather than being inadvertent or a slip, Ford’s February vote was part of a pattern that saw him warned twice about using council letterhead to solicit donations before he was formally investigated in 2010, and ignore Bussin’s warning at the resulting vote, Ruby argues.
“Mayor Ford has a history on other issues of complying with the Act and a history on this particular issue of flouting the Act,” and also of displaying an “attitude that the rules do not apply to him,” the factum states.
The only conclusion, Ruby argues, is that Ford deliberately flouted the act because he was upset by what he considered an unfair burden, and correctly concluded he could turn councillors around by “speaking from the heart.”
Ford’s defence, according to his lawyer’s factum viewed by the Star on Monday, will be that the Conflict of Interest Act doesn’t apply because Ford’s actions were governed by a council Code of Conduct that falls under another provincial law, the City of Toronto Act.
Alan Lenczner also argues that the donations didn’t affect Ford’s “pecuniary interest” because they went to his football foundation, not his own pocket.
If Ford did breach the Act, Lenczner argues, the judge should deem it an “error of judgment or inadvertence,” because Ford believed the act only came into play if the vote had a financial impact for the city, and the sum involved insignificant.
Is the object of the exercise  to drive Ford out of the office he won in a free and democratic election?
Under  Aurora's Code of Conduct, Conflict of Interest charges  are not accepted as complaints under the Code.
If Rob Ford was breaking a law by using the  letterhead  and time of staff, public resources,  to raise $3,150. for charity, every Mayor in the Province is doing the same when they allow the title of Mayor to be used to raise funds for charity,
Rob Ford didn't argue it wasn't fair  for him to repay  money already spent  to donors. out of his own pocket. 
He said it didn't make sense. The money  had been spent for the purpose it was collected.People gave it of their own free will.It was a meagre amount in terms of charity fund-raising. It was used to assist people in income brackets who could not provide football equipment for their kids. 
Where is  common  law disrespected? 
Where is the logic?
Where is the crime?
Code of Conduct legislation was brought in because the City lost millions in computer contracts and  after $13 million had been spent on  the Bellamy Inquiry. 
No legal action was taken under that circumstance. No  refunds ordered. No penalties paid. 
In the last term, Ford denied being at a football game after a complaint about his personal conduct at the sports event.
He denied having a doobie in his pocket in Florida  years  earlier when he had been stopped by police.   
All of that was public knowledge and  thanks to the Toronto Star,dug up and well- aired  during the  election campaign for Mayor.
Despite the Toronto Star, or perhaps because eof them, Ford  won in a field of eight candidates.
Clayton Ruby, "renowned lawyer" according to The Star, apparently intends using the material in his argument for conviction and, no doubt  expulsion from office. Ruby goes for the jugular. 
As I see it, in this instance, several laws are on trial.
Permissive  legislation that allows each municipality to write it's own  rules of conduct.  And hire and fire the adjudicator of  their choice and at their pleasure. 
Provincial Conflict of Interest  laws  rely on civil litigation  by a private citizen at his own expense.
Where' s the logic in that?
In Ford's circumstance  the system requires  logical arguments to illogical laws.
The justice system is  required to make sense of a  potential dog's breakfast of  arguments.   
The challenge in thi instance ,is to the people's right to choose an elected representative  in a free and democratic election. 
Will a Judge decide the man chosen by a majority of Toronto electors to be their Mayor for the next four years, with all his warts and weaknesses plainly exposed, should not in fact be allowed to serve in that office.
Because he collected funds for a good cause, used them, saw no sense in returning them to willing donors and had the temerity to say so in public, in defiance of an appointed bureaucrat's directive  he should give  the freely given  and tax- receipted money back .
Interesting, isn't it?
None of the facts in  Ford's case can be compared  to the circumstances of the Aurora Conflict of Interest.
In Toronto, everything done was  done out there in the public domain.
The way it's  supposed to be .. 


Anonymous said...

The Ford Conflict of Interest is over a relatively small amount of money which went for hockey equipment. From what I have read the Morris Conflict of Interest involves an large amount of money from the Town of Aurora. It also had the potential for an enormous amount of money going to an individual. There is no comparison between the two cases, especially when you consider the Mr Ford is currently an elected, sitting Mayor and Morris is currently a soundly defeated ex-Mayor.
Feel free not to print this. I just do not see any similarities but am certainly not a lawyer.

Anonymous said...

Clayton Ruby is famous but Alan Lenczner, who is representing Mayor Ford, is no slouch. He has an awesome reputation.

Anonymous said...

If there is a positive side to these two cases, it is that Aurora was able to remove Morris at the polls instead of waiting until the Judge threw her case out. In Toronto, the onus is on whatever a Judge decides and that is probably not the way the matter should be handled. There are good Judges and bad ones - it should not come down to one person's opinion. Feels better if thousands are involved. Just a comment.

Anonymous said...

"...Morris is currently a soundly defeated ex-Mayor."

People here really need to remember this reality. She garners far more attention - retrospective and otherwise - than she deserves in her present circumstances. it is 2012, NOT 2006/10

Anonymous said...

Here's a gruesome thought, but probably more true than ever.

"Politics is not about objective reality, but virtual reality. What happens in the political world is divorced from the real world."

This is particularly true in the USA, but we are becoming increasingly contaminated by this virus, municipally, provincially and federally.

And there is nothing that can kill a virus.

Anonymous said...

As far as I know, the dispute in Toronto involved the mayor soliciting donations for his football charity using Council letterhead and his subsequent refusal to declare a conflict, while he participated in a meeting and voted on the motion which would have required him to pay back the city approximately $3,000 in money donated by a company that did business with the city.

In Aurora, the same Municipal Conflict of Interest Act is being applied to Morris’ involvement in a closed meeting. George Hervey’s lawyer is arguing that Morris should have left the closed meeting and she should have declared a conflict at some point. She did neither. Morris went one step further by actually participating in the closed meeting in which the CAO and the Town Clerk now claim in sworn statements that the idea of using Morris, the integrity commissioner or the town’s lawyer as a “front person” for a town funded lawsuit was discussed.

Ultimately Morris saw fit to access town funds in order to launch a private lawsuit against her political rivals for her sole potential gain, despite the Town’s Code of Conduct clearly stating the “public office is not to be used for personal gain”, while at the same time she refused to sign an indemnity agreement that would require her to pay back the town. The town paid $55,000 in legal fees before the funding of Morris’ private lawsuit was cut off approximately ten weeks into the case and the case is ongoing almost two years later. Remember that Morris was seeking $6 million and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in her legal fees to be paid for by the town and yet it appears that she and her supports don’t see this as a “pecuniary interest” in which she stood to personally gain. I don’t hear a word about the Code of Conduct implications and Morris continues to enjoy the full support of those that effectively gave her a town funded blank cheque.

It’s also interesting that when the Morris lawsuit broke in the local media I recall a couple of Morris’ supporters on council making claims in the media to the effect that they had no idea that either the motion discussed could lead to a lawsuit or that they were unaware that such approval was authorised. Councillor Gallo actually said that had he known that he would have asked more questions. He later went on to support the same motion a second time but I digress. The same councillors that claimed ignorance surrounding how a lawsuit could have possibly commenced more recently tried to block the town’s involvement and full disclosure in the Conflict of Interest hearing. I find that to be worthy of note.

Councillor Gaertner stated recently, to my amazement, something to the effect that “the town should not be involved in funding lawsuits against innocent people” (i.e. meaning her friend Phyllis Morris). I could not agree more in principle however all we need to do now is figure out who will determine who is innocent before the town spends its good money suing people.

Now we know from information released in court that there should have never been any surprise to anyone attending the September 2010 closed meeting in question, what would likely unfold after the council motion was passed. Could this be why some councillors did not support the town’s full disclosure in the conflict of Interest case ? It sure does make you wonder. Council should not be allowed to hide behind closed meetings and vague language.

In 2010 Morris was quoted in the media as saying that she “brought this issue to council’s attention” because the comments made about her “had gone too far” and she appreciated the support of a majority of council. In my opinion no one should ever question that this issue was ever about anything other than Ms. Morris' politics and her willingness to use town funds in order to forward her personal interests with the full and never ending support of her good friends on council. End of story.

Anonymous said...

Clayton Ruby has been taking some cheap shots at Mayor Ford - like ' Have you ever lied?" He needs to stick to proving a case if he believes he has one. Even the best resort to belittling the opponent and it is not good legal work. You would expect better from a " Legend ".

Anonymous said...

I would like to commend 8:09 AM of today's date for having taken the time to present an excellent outline of the Conflict of Interest/Pecuniary Interest litigation against Morris and some of its aftermath.

Anonymous said...

"End of story"

If only ... but wishful thinking, I'm afraid.

(I agree with your take on things, 8:09 AM)

Anonymous said...

Oh, and one more question that makes my head spin.

Morris' lawyer argued in her defamation case that her defamation lawsuit was always a private lawsuit and now her lawyer in the conflict of interest hearing is stating the exact opposite; namely that this was always a town initiative and Morris was just a “front person”.

Could someone please clear up the apparent conflict between the two conflicting statements ?

Anonymous said...

The "pesky little indemnity agreement " which Morris refused to sign MORE THAN ONCE has not been discussed by her lawyer. He is fixated on trying to prove the C.of I was filed too late or that some vast conspiracy was responsible. Someone commented that he was ' tilting with wind-mills'. Let us hope the Judge notices.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know when the second hearing date is for the conflict of interest case ? Has it been set yet ?

Morris' lawyer has not presented her full case yet. It should make for some interesting reading.

Anonymous said...

Please do not forget that Councillor Ballard has signed onto the Morris team and consistently votes to keep information in-house. The Hervey Conflict of Interest suit needed documentation from Aurora and is working without it. Specifically they needed the entire Rusty D'Eye report. It has been termed ' privileged' information, which means that taxpayers do not have access to it either. It is difficult to reach a decision without full disclosure.