TORONTO—As anticipation builds for tomorrow's decision on whether Rob Ford will remain in office, new information is surfacing that the mayor is likely on his way out of City Hall regardless.
Friday’s decision by the Ontario Divisional Court is the culmination of a complaint brought against Ford 10 months ago. A citizen complainant (with ties to labour activists), brought a motion against Ford for violations of Ontario’s Municipal Conflict-of-Interest Act.
Violation of the Act, which includes mandatory removal from office, prompted Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles T. Hackland to remove Ford in November. Hackland found Ford had broken the law by asking City lobbyists to donate to his charity, and then speaking and voting on whether he should have to repay the money when ordered to do so by the City’s integrity commissioner.
Ford has appealed the decision to a three-judge panel, which will release their decision Friday on whether he will be allowed to stay in office.
Senior level sources in the City of Toronto believe that Ford will be removed.
“A lot of people were looking at how quickly the decision came out after the appeal and think that this means that [the ruling] will be upheld,” said a source at City Hall.
However, even if Ford does manage to survive on Friday, he could still be removed for reasons related to his election campaign finances.
“The biggest concern is that the City compliance audit committee could recommend prosecution. If that happens he could not only be removed now, and prevented from running in a by-election, but they could also prevent him from running until 2018,” said a city councillor speaking to the Toronto Media Co-op.
The City’s compliance audit committee is responsible for overseeing the campaign expenses of candidates as per the Municipal Elections Act. The Act has already caused 47 people to be prevented from running in the next Toronto election due to failure to file financial statements for their campaign.
The compliance committee, has reviewed the expenses of several candidates in the last municipal election including Gus Cusimano, Li Preti, Peter Youngren and Abni Hashised. They also reviewed the campaign finances of Toronto councillor Gorgio Mammoliti and Mayor Ford.
Mammoliti, a previous Ford ally, was found to have overspent his campaign spending limit by 44%. On February 4, the committee will meet to discuss what action to take against him if any. If they feel the contravention is particularly damning, they will be able to recommend prosecution. Prosecution could lead to fines or removal from office. It could also lead to Mammoliti being barred from up to two future elections.
Many councillors feel that Mammoliti stands to be removed. Adam Vaughan, a councillor who has repeatedly clashed with Mammoliti, taunted him during heated debates in the last council budget session saying: "We're gonna miss ya, Georgie."
Ford could very well stand to suffer the same fate. Ford's campaign finances will be released next week and councillors interviewed by the Toronto Media Co-op stated that the are hearing reports that the audit will be very damning.
If problematic, the committee could recommend prosecution for Ford, which could lead to Ford not only being removed from office, but also being barred from future elections.
Interviewed in the Toronto Star, City Councillor and Ford-critic Janet Davis stated, “I hope we can also see the results of the election finance complaint. If the mayor has violated the Municipal Elections Act as well, I think that’s a very important piece of information we should have. I hope that we could get that information in advance of voting at council.”
Tomorrow's decision regarding the mayors removal from office will be released at 9:30 to Ford and the parties in the case. It will be released to the public at 10:30am.
In an email to his residents, Councillor Josh Matlow outlines what happens if Ford is removed tomorrow:
"If the Mayor's seat becomes vacant for any reason:
"1. the Deputy Mayor automatically assumes the powers and duties of the Mayor until Council fills the vacancy. There is no gap and no risk that City business will be interrupted by the vacancy.
"2. City Council has 60 days to (a) fill the vacancy by appointing any person qualified to hold office, or (b) pass by-laws to hold a by election.
"3. If Council chooses to hold a by-election, the Clerk must fix nomination date (i.e., close of nominations) no longer than 60 days from the time Council passes a by-law. Voting day will be 45 days following that. I expect the by-election would end up being sometime in May of this year."