In a much anticipated decision by theOntario Superior Court of Justice, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was found to haveviolated the Municipal Conflict ofInterest Act, (MCIA) and his seaton Toronto City Council was declared vacant.
The question in this case was whether theMayor violated the MCIA by speakingto and voting on measures regarding whether he was required to repay charitabledonations he had collected in breach of the City Code of Conduct. Before the first of the votes, Mr. Ford was warnedby the Council Speaker that he had a conflict of interest, but he participatedanyway. A municipal voter brought the motion.
The judge found that as Council had thepower to levy financial sanctions for Codeof Conduct violations, this created a pecuniary interest, and the MCIA prohibited a Council member facedwith such a conflict from speaking to or voting on the matter. Having found thecontravention, the judge was required under MCIA,to declare Mr. Ford’s seat vacant, unless the defence of inadvertence or anerror in judgement applied.
The judge found that Mr. Ford’sparticipation in the vote was a deliberate choice; to have been inadvertentwould have required oversight, inattention or carelessness. The judge held thatthe error in judgment exemption required elements of honesty and good faith anddid not cover Mr. Ford’s outright ignorance of the law and willful blindness of hisobligations. The judge declared Mr. Ford’s seat vacant. Since the initial judgment, the judge has clarified that Mr. Ford is able to run in the event of a by-election. An appeal has been filed and is scheduled to beheard in January. In the meantime, the Mayor has been granted a stay of theorder removing him from office pending the hearing of the appeal.
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