Controversial politician Rob Ford will remain the mayor of Toronto, after a three-judge divisional court panel rejected a previous court ruling.
A decision made public on Friday found that Justice Charles Hackland erred when he found that Ford breached the conflict of interest act when he debated and voted on a motion to force him to pay back $3,150 in questionable he collected for his private charity.
The ruling, posted online, states:
[W]e conclude that the application judge erred in finding that Mr. Ford contravened the MCIA. Accordingly, we would allow the appeal.
A humbled Ford thanked the city for its support during a press conference on Friday. He hinted that he was already looking forward to the next municipal election.
“I’d like to begin by saying this has been a very, very humbling experience. I have tremendous respect for the judicial system and am very grateful for the decision made today,” Ford told reporters. “Two years ago the people of this city elected me their mayor... I plan on spending the next six years on getting the job done.”
The complaint was originally brought forward by private citizen Paul Magder and championed by seasoned litigator Clayton Ruby last year in connection to a series of donations collected for Ford's personal charity beginning in 2009, while Ford was a city councillor.
The debate stemmed from $3,150 in donations to Ford's football foundation that he raised by using city letterhead and, allegedly, his clout as a city councillor. The city's integrity commissioner found the money to have been collected inappropriately and ordered Ford to repay it.
Hackland ruled that Ford's decision to participate in a debate, then as mayor, over whether he should be forced to pay back that money constituted a conflict of interest punishable by expulsion from city hall.
In their ruling on Friday, the divisional court panel said that Ford did not contravene conflict of interest laws because the money in question was going to a charity and not Ford. The ruling states, “Mr. Ford had no pecuniary interest in the matter on which he voted at Council.”
Ruby released a statement on Friday saying that Ford was let off "on a technicality." He will ask the Supreme Court of Canada for a chance to appeal to the country's top court.
Especially troubling is the finding that if a politician raises money from lobbyists and directs that money to his or her own personal interest, such abuse is beyond the reach of government oversight.
Ford’s phoenix-like resurrection put an interesting twist on politics at city hall.
There will be a certain about of boot-licking now that he is out of the fire, and perhaps some level of conciliation on the part of the mayor. Councillors who had publicly, or privately, positioned themselves for a mayoral run will need to reassess their place in Ford Nation.
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, who quit Ford’s executive committee and more recently claimed there was a vast conspiracy out to get him, admitted to reporters that the mayor was upset with him.
Ford still faces a case into improper spending during his 2010 mayoral campaign, which could yet see him thrown from office. The Toronto Star reports that the audit into his finances is expected next week.
Friday’s ruling certainly accomplished one thing: it set city hall on a course to stability, something that has been perceived to be lacking for some time.