Rob Ford’s Bad Day
by Theresa Spohn
To tell a boss bad news is never easy, but when that boss has been fired and his peers are present, explaining his next steps is truly an unpleasant task.
That is the position Anna Kinastowski, the city solicitor, found herself in on Tuesday morning at city hall. She was there to address council about the judge’s ruling on Mayor Rob Ford’s conflict of interest case. The previous day, Justice Charles Hackland, of Ontario’s Superior Court, had ruled that the chair belonging to the 64th mayor of the City of Toronto, would be vacant in 14 days. Ford had contravened the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MICA). In Kinastowski’s opinion of Hackland’s judgement, Ford cannot run for a possible byelection.
“Mr. Ford is disqualified from holding office for the remainder of the current term,” she said. “ It is my opinion that means 2010 to 2014. “
But, she cautioned councillors there was no need for hasty decisions,
“ The judge suspended operation of that particular fact [to have Ford vacate his seat] for 14 days,” Kinastowski said, at the first regular meeting of council after this stunning ruling.
So for now, “ The mayor is the mayor and it is business as usual.”
If the mayor intends to appeal, and it is understood he will, Ford remains the mayor of the city until the Divisional Court releases its opinion, she explained, which will be final. Kinastowski said if there is no stay or the judgment is not overturned, there are certain actions council can take but noted, “[We] are a ways away from such a decision.”
But some councillors like Giorgio Mammoliti, (Ward 7 York West), would prefer decisive action take place now.
“ I think it would not be appropriate for [Ford) to leave office but to step down while his appeal is being heard and give the reins of power to the deputy mayor for the time being,” Mammoliti, a former Ford ally, told reporters during a scrum in the city hall public gallery.
Others like Adam Vaughan, councillor for Ward 20-Trinity-Spadina and a Ford critic, feel the mayor has never truly performed his role.
“ I would argue that he has been an absentee mayor. The business of council is being postponed again today so he can coach football, “ Vaughan said to reporters at city hall. Ford has received criticism in the past for coaching the Don Bosco football team and using his city hall staff to help coach the team. “He missed the big city mayors’ meeting in Ottawa so he could be in court on libel issues. I don’t think we’ve had effective leadership in the mayor’s chair in the last two years.”
Maria Augimeri, councillor for Ward 9-York Centre, couldn’t help attacking the mayor’s track record to date.
“ His effectiveness has been on a rollercoaster since he became mayor two years ago,” she told reporters.
In 2010, while still a councillor, Ford admittedly used city council letterhead to raise funds from lobbyists for his football foundation, a private charity. The Integrity Commissioner subsequently ordered Ford to pay the funds back and stop using municipal letterhead. In February 2012, Ford voted in council against the Integrity Commissioner’s decision regarding his fundraising efforts.
Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 30 – Toronto-Danforth) is frustrated by Ford’s actions, the position he has put the city in, and his lack of cooperation with the Integrity Commissioner.
“ I just simply wish the mayor had paid the $3,000. The Integrity Commissioner told him it was improper to raise the money, “ she told reporters during a scrum. “His court case is probably $100 thousand. I don’t understand why he didn’t pay the $3,000 in the first place.”
But no one at city hall was as direct today as Justice Hackland was in his comments about Ford’s behaviour as mayor.
“In my opinion, the respondent’s actions were characterized by ignorance of the law and a lack of diligence in securing professional advice, amounting to willful blindness,” he wrote in his judgment.
The only one not saying a word about the decision during Tuesday’s city council meeting was Mayor Rob Ford. He sat through the proceedings stone-faced and occasionally his brother, Doug Ford, the councillor for Ward 2 Etobicoke North would come by and whisper in his ear.