Cheol Joon Baek
Justice Charles Hackland in his ruling against Mayor Rob Ford - "It is difficult to accept an error in judgment defence based essentially on a stubborn sense of entitlement (concerning his football foundation) and a dismissive and confrontational attitude to the Integrity Commissioner and the Code of Conduct. The respondent's actions were characterized by ignorance of the law and a lack of diligence in securing professional advice, amounting to wilful blindness. A high standard must be expected from an elected official in a position of leadership and responsibility."
That's it, then. Rob Ford is done. Fini. Kaput. Guilty of conflict of interest and ordered to vacate his seat within 14 days on Monday, November 26. An ignominious end brought down like a sledgehammer by Justice Charles Hackland on a mayoralty both out of touch and out of control.
There are still enough legal permutations left for Ford to hang onto his seat briefly. But it's unlikely an appeal court will overturn Hackland's decision.
It wasn't supposed to end like this. The conflict case against Ford - for soliciting $3,150 in donations from lobbyists for his football foundation and then voting in council on a motion to overturn the order by the integrity commissioner to pay it back - was but one legal offensive of a number set in motion to rein in abuses of power by a seemingly untouchable mayor.
Not even Ford's worst foes imagined this result. "Holy shit" were the first words from Councillor Joe Mihevc's mouth.
Call it instant karma. Call it a blessing from the gods. Call it an early holiday gift. Ford's supporters call it a travesty. They complain that the punishment doesn't fit the crime. That it's a hijacking of the 2010 election result.
The harsh truth, however, is that Rob Ford is no longer the man people voted for.
The humble SOB with a tireless work ethic even his enemies had to respect has become an arrogant, lazy prick in office. He's abdicated his responsibility to the taxpayers he says he spends every breath fighting for. His friends will tell you that. They've been deserting him in droves over one shenanigan after another.
Justice Hackland has done Toronto, turned laughingstock by a buffoon, a big favour.
Of course, in Ford's mind it was everybody else's fault when the news broke and he found himself unceremoniously dumped.
After the verdict, the mayor showed up at a meeting of his closest advisers in his muddy sweats (he'd been putting his football team through practice in preparation for the next day's Metro Bowl at the Rogers Centre) - and in deep denial.
When he met the crush of reporters waiting outside his City Hall office, he blamed "left-wing politics" for his defeat and promised to fight the decision "tooth and nail."
It seems the vast left-wing conspiracy against the mayor includes Justice Hackland, who was appointed by Ford's fishing buddy in Ottawa, Stephen Harper. One Sun TV commentator said "homosexual extremists" were responsible for the judge's decision. Yup. Those fucking downtown elites were picking on their boy again.
Ford's was a pathetic performance. By the time his brother Doug took to the airwaves late Monday afternoon to do damage control on AM 640, Newstalk 1010 and the Stephen LeDrew show, the talking points had changed to how Ford's football foundation was helping kids in priority neighbourhoods.
Doug Ford also pointed the inevitable finger at other politicians who've burned money on assorted wasteful projects. Ford friendlies in the media quickly seized on the Liberals' gas plant fiasco as a subject of comparison. I hear a march on the office of Clayton Ruby, the lawyer who made the winning case against Ford, may be in the works. And so went the chest-beating by the Ford camp.
From the man himself, Robert Bruce Ford, nary a word of remorse. No mea culpa. No "I could have done things a little differently." No humility.
That only came Tuesday afternoon during council's regular monthly meeting, at which Ford delivered a prepared statement, not coincidentally after a number of his close allies began openly musing to reporters that the mayor should drop his plan to appeal Hackland's decision; Denzil Minnan-Wong called the plan a "distraction." Others have now openly deserted Ford.
Whether that apology changes anything remains to be seen. No one who voted for Ford did so because they thought he was perfect. Even his opponents have shown an unbelievable readiness to give him kudos for the smallest conciliatory gesture. But don't be fooled by the crocodile tears of Ford's non-apology apology. It's just another big lie by an administration eyeball-deep in BS.
While the seriousness of the situation may finally have dawned on him, Tuesday's act of contrition was all about political self-preservation. It was addressed not only to the court of public opinion but to the judges who'll be empanelled to hear his appeal sometime in the new year. Indeed, by Wednesday morning news was trickling out of a plot being hatched by the Fords for Doug to run in a possible by-election, and for Rob to run provincially.
Up until Tuesday's tear-jerker statement, Ford had shown no regret about the conflict charge or any other matter in which he's been caught breaking the rules. He simply thinks he's above the law.
Few saw it coming, least of all Ford, who throughout viewed the conflict charge with contempt. That was evident when they were first brought, and later in his deposition in the discovery phase, which was so riddled with inconsistencies that Hackland had no choice after reading the transcript but to compel Ford to testify in open court.
Ford's supporters say the Municipal Conflict Of Interest Act (MCIA), the provincial law under which he was convicted, is an ass.
But there's no excuse for wilful blindness when it comes to the law, especially on the part of the chief magistrate of the largest city in the land.
Ford made no error in judgment, no good-faith mistake when he voted in council on a financial matter in which he had a direct personal interest: Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper's order to repay the $3,150 he'd solicited for his football foundation on City Hall letterhead from lobbyists. As mayor, he should have been aware of the law and informed himself about the appropriate response to Leiper's order. He had many opportunities before that council vote to return the money - unarguably a trivial sum for him. But he refused. A "sense of entitlement," Hackland called it.
Nor does the fact that the money was solicited for a good cause justify his actions.
Have we already forgotten the MFP computer leasing scandal? It's the code of conduct that came out of the MFP inquiry that Ford contravened. "A higher standard must be expected of an elected official in a position of leadership and responsibility," Hackland wrote in his decision.
Ford was asked, in writing, on five separate occasions to repay the $3,150. He was ordered to do so by the previous council. Ford ignored them all, defying Leiper's order. Worse, in February 2012, he asked council to rescind its order to repay the donations. At the time, Ford was still easily winning most votes. He got his way again, and cast a vote himself to let himself off the hook.
Would a remorseful Ford on the witness stand, like the one who read the prepared statement Tuesday, have changed matters? Ryerson politics prof Neil Thomlinson says, "The legislation is pretty clear and the facts are pretty clear. I don't see that there was any way around that for the judge."
Perhaps. But Ford's wholly unbelievable performance also gave Hackland no choice. There was a legal opening, albeit a small one, for the judge to slip into activist mode, let the mayor off easier and call for a rewriting of the law.
His decision does touch on his concerns about the MCIA's shortcomings. A recommendation was made at the recent Mississauga Judicial Inquiry into some dirty development dealings that the act be amended to allow a councillor to make submissions when there's a matter of conduct before council. Hackland agreed that the law itself might need amending.
But Ford's antagonistic demeanour on the stand, his "I didn't know any better" defence (though he'd declared conflicts in the past on the most mundane matters, including his mother's golf membership at a city club) made it impossible for Hackland to render any other verdict.
Some inside and outside the Ford camp think that had he had shown a bit more compunction we might not be discussing his political demise.
One prominent spinner close to the case opined to me on Monday, "One of the things that probably hurt the Fords more than they realize is their behaviour. Judges can't speak to newspapers, but they certainly read newspapers. Any judge looking at the history would have to [see] that Ford really hadn't learned his lesson."
Judges don't like to substitute their own judgment for that of the people. They'll only ever do that in extreme cases, and Ford's was a serious breach.
But the conflict case is only one of a long list of matters in which Ford's integrity has come into question, among them his use of office staff on the taxpayers' dime to help coach his football team, asking city staff to perform road and other work outside the Ford family business in Etobicoke, his commandeering of a TTC bus to ferry his team home, the attempted grab of parkland next door to his home, the conducting of city business outside City Hall to escape the scrutiny of the lobbyist registrar. The list goes on and on. The Everyman shtick is a ruse and always has been.
Too much time has been spent excusing Ford's transgressions.
Still, some will use Hackland's decision to try to make Ford a martyr, and it may energize some supporters. That's the hope of those close to him, but it seems like wishful thinking. There's also the not so small matter of the audit of his campaign donations in the wings.
Ford may win his appeal, though that seems unlikely. The Divisional Court could accept his application or send the case back for a retrial, which would buy him some time. He's got money to burn on lawyers. His side thinks he can take this to the Supreme Court. They're wrong.
Politically, though, the jig is up. Most of his council allies are running for the hills. "They're gone, all of them," according to one insider. Ford is now radioactive. It was a very small group of politicos that huddled in his office Monday.
Even his deputy, Doug Holyday, who talked Friday about not wanting a caretaker mayor to replace Ford in the event he's tossed - lest that mess with the administration's agenda - now says he's amenable to assuming that role himself. That route would seem preferable to a by-election. It's not like there's been any leadership from mayor's office for the better part of the past year. Ford's staunchest allies have signalled their intention to work with the other side.
Ford's right-hand thumb, Giorgio Mammoliti, resigned from the executive committee. Mammo is a political opportunist, and after 23 years in politics he knows a dead fish when he smells one. Josh Colle, a recent appointee by the Striking Committee to the mayor's executive, also removed his name after Ford's guilty verdict.
It was a weird scene at council Tuesday, barely 24 hours after Hackland's bomb had dropped. As committee chairs stood to table their respective reports as per procedure, compliments were offered on the great work achieved by this council's mid-term mark, mostly despite the mayor. It was as if the last two years of backbiting and divisiveness had fallen away. Ford sat in his chair, looking into the distance, from time to time taking deep breaths.