The Divisional Court has overturned a decision ordering Mayor Rob Ford out of office.
Regional Senior Justice Edward Then, Justice Katherine Swinton and Justice Lynne Leitch disagreed with a lower court that Mr. Ford broke the Municipal Conflict of Interest, designed to keep elected officials from exerting influence on decisions that could benefit them financially.
The court agreed with Mr. Ford’s lawyer that city council did not have the authority to order Mr. Ford to repay donations to his private football foundation, so he had no pecuniary interest in the matter.
“Therefore, the appeal is allowed, the judgement of the application judge is set aside and the application under the MCIA is dismissed,” the judgement stated.
Entering his office shortly after the ruling, Mayor Ford said he felt “fantastic.” He entered his office to cheering from people inside, promising to address the news later this morning.
Outside his office, councillors reacted to the news.
“It is what it is. It’s back to business as usual,” Councillor Joe Mihevc said.
“We just need to kind of move on from this and try to keep council together… My hope is that the mayor is chastened by this new lease on life that he has, that he has a different approach to governing than he has up to this time.”
Mr. Ford’s alleged transgression occurred almost a year ago, when he voted to rescind a council resolution requiring him to repay $3,150 in donations to his football foundation, after the integrity commissioner found he improperly used city resources to solicit funds.
In his original ruling, Justice Charles Hackland said the mayor’s actions amounted to “willful blindness”, even if he acknowledged the law, which carries a mandatory penalty of expulsion from office, is a “blunt instrument.”
In court, Mr. Ford’s lawyer Alan Lenczner presented his client as an honest man who made a mistake. And he said that the city didn’t have the authority to impose the sanction of reimbursement in the first place, rendering everything that came after null and void.
“Do we want to throw out a mayor was elected by the people because he voted on one occasion for no detriment to the city and no benefit to himself?” Mr. Lenczner asked a court.
But Paul Magder, the Toronto man who launched the lawsuit, argued that the legislation had to be interpreted harshly.
Mr. Ford said Thursday he has faith in the Divisonal Court. “I believe in the judicial system and I hope for the best,” he told reporters.
The decision does not spell the end to Mayor Ford’s potential troubles, as his opponents at city hall will quickly point out.
There are still outstanding results of an audit into the mayor’s 2010 campaign spending that could find he broke election finance rules. The potential penalties range from fines to removal from office.
“Those are very serious allegations perhaps even more serious than the ones he facing right now,” said Councillor Adam Vaughan, a political opponent.