The city's top lawyer believes Monday's bombshell ruling on Mayor Ford's conflict of interest case prevents him from running in a by-election before 2014.
In a question and answer period at the start of a regularly scheduled council meeting Tuesday, city solicitor Anna Kinastowski said she interprets the Ontario Superior Court decision as barring Ford from seeking office until the current council term is over.
The wording of Justice Charles Hackland's ruling has sewn confusion about Ford's options should he lose his expected appeal bid. The judge did not disqualify Ford from "holding office beyond the current term" but it's unclear whether he intended this to apply to the council term, which expires in 2014, or the mayor's own tenure, which will end on December 10 unless Ford wins a stay of Monday's judgment.
Kinastowski told councillors Tuesday that as far as the city is concerned, Ford would not be eligible to run in a by-election before the scheduled 2014 municipal vote.
"There is some discussion in the papers regarding Justice Hackland's comment that Mr. Ford is disqualified from holding office for the remainder of the current term," Kinastoski said. "In our view, it is my opinion, that the word ‘term' means 2010 to 2014."
This means that if council decides to call a by-election to replace Ford, he would be forced to sit on the sidelines.
Kinastowski noted however that if Ford disagreed with the city's reading of Hackland's ruling, the mayor could seek a judicial interpretation for clarification.
The city is not directly involved in Ford's conflict case, but several councillors wanted Kinastowski to speak to them on Tuesday to give advice on where they stand now that the mayor has been ordered out.
Ford intends to seek a stay of the ruling, and then appeal it, a process which could take months, Kinastowski said. Hackland's decision is supposed to come into effect in 13 days, but council would not have to declare the mayor's seat vacant until the Divisional Court rendered its ruling on the appeal. The Divisional Court's decision would be final and binding, and Ford would have no option to appeal to a higher court.
Once his seat was declared vacant, council would have 60 days to hold a special meeting and decide whether to hold a by-election or appoint a sitting councillor to serve out the remainder of the term, Kinastowski said.
She also confirmed that Ford is responsible for his own legal bills during his conflict ordeal.
"The city is not involved," she said, in a response to a question from Councillor Gloria Lindsay-Luby.
Ford hired Alan Lenczner of the prestigious Toronto firm Lenczner Slaght Royce Griffin LLP to represent him in the conflict case.
In a radio interview last month, Ford said paying for his defence in the various legal proceedings against him was "costing me a fortune."
Ford is still awaiting the outcome of a $6-million defamation suit against him. That trial wrapped up last week.