Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was found guilty in a conflict of interest case and will be removed from office.
Justice Charles Hackland released his ruling on Monday, rejecting Ford's claim that his decision to participate in a debate over whether he should repay $3,150 in questionable donations was a simple error in judgment.
"The Mayor is the face of City government, both internally and externally. Maintaining the integrity of government is the Mayor's most important job," Hackland found, in part, according to a tweet by the Toronto Star's Robyn Doolittle.
John Mascarin, a municipal law expert who has been following the case, told the Toronto Star that "there's never been a brouhaha of this magnitude in a major Canadian city."
Mascarin had said that if Ford is found guilty he would expect lawyer Alan Lenczner to file a quick appeal, possibly keeping Ford in office for another month.
The fate of such an appeal was not immediately evident. But Hackland did place a 14-day pause on his decision to give time for the necessary administrative changes to be made.
The question had stirred for weeks over whether Ford would be removed from office over the controversy.
- Verdict: Read the full text of Justice Hackland's verdict
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- Video: Background on the conflict of interest case
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The complaint was brought forward by a private citizen and championed by seasoned litigator Clayton Ruby earlier this 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.
Ruby argued 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.
Hackland ruled that Ford "failed in his burden to show that his contraventions of the MCIA were the result of a good faith error in judgement."
Justice Hackland had several options at his disposal, but chose to remove Ford from office, pending the 14-day administrative pause. Ford could have been banned from running for office for the next seven years, but Hackland did not extend the punishment that far.
The Toronto Star reported that city hall faces the unanswered question of how to replace Ford if he was removed from office.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday told the Star last week that he expects he would temporarily assume the mayor's duties until a by-election was held. The by-election would reportedly cost $7 million to run.
Another option would be for a councillor to be appointed as a "caretaker" mayor until the 2014 municipal election. That replacement would be chosen by a majority vote.
With this controversy behind him, for better or worse, Ford can now refocus his efforts on other issues, including a $6-million defamation suit against him that wrapped up in court last week.
The Don Bosco Eagles, a Catholic high school football team Ford coaches, is set to appear in the championship Metro Bowl on Tuesday. Ford has hinted he would miss a council meeting to coach the game.
There doesn't seem to be any reason he would miss that game now. He's persona non grata at city hall.