Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Toronto mayor could lose job over conflict-of-interest issue

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TORONTO -- In a Toronto courtroom in September, Mayor Rob Ford will answer to conflict-of-interest allegations that could see him ousted from his position.

Superior Court Justice Charles T. Hackland, who normally sits in Ottawa, will hear the case in Toronto, lawyer Clayton Ruby said in a press release.

The case against Ford, launched by Ruby on behalf of resident Paul Magder, claims he violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act for voting to excuse himself from paying back donations to his football foundation.

It focuses on a Feb. 7 vote in which council debated $3,150 spent on the Rob Ford Football Foundation.

Ford allegedly obtained the funds improperly from company-connected lobbyists and companies, according to the city's integrity commissioner.

Madger's challenge alleges Ford violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act when he voted to overturn the commissioner's decision.

Back in 2010, Janet Leiper, the city's integrity commissioner, ruled the mayor had, as a councillor, improperly solicited and obtained donations for the foundation from registered lobbyists and one company that had dealings with the city.

Council asked him to pay the money back.

Having not done so, Leiper was before council again in February asking that it demand proof of payment, prompting Ford to voice his concerns.

"To ask for me to pay it out of my own pocket personally, there's no sense to this. The money is gone, the money has been spent on football equipment. And that's how this foundation works, and I'm very proud of it," the mayor told council, before he and a majority of council voted to overturn the earlier decision.

"That's exactly what is not permitted," Ruby said at a press conference at city hall in March. "You can't as a city councillor speak to a motion, vote on a motion that benefits you personally."

Ruby says it's up to Ford to show he inadvertently contravened the act, or did so through an error in judgment, in order to avoid the mandatory penalty: vacating his seat.

Ruby is also asking a judge to ban Ford from running for office for seven years, a sanction that is at the court's discretion.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2012 A26

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