Legal experts debate focus of Ford ruling

History might have been different if, instead of ordering Rob Ford to repay $3,150 in improper donations, Toronto Council had instead suspended his pay for the same amount and handed it back to the donors. Then, council would have stayed within the powers of its Code of Conduct.

That scenario crossed Leo Longo’s mind after reading Friday’s Ontario Divisional Court judgment, which ruled that Mr. Ford was not in conflict of interest and can stay as the city’s mayor.

“The City of Toronto doesn’t have the power under its enabling legislation to impose the sanction of reimbursing the money. To have him removed from office for violating a decision that was illegal would be anathema.”

The Divisional Court said Toronto Council didn’t have the jurisdiction to force the mayor to repay the $3,150 he raised from lobbyists for his football foundation. The city’s Code of Conduct allows only two types of penalties, either a reprimand or a suspension of renumeration, the court said.

“Had council done it slightly differently, it would have remained within jurisdiction,” said Mr. Longo, a municipal law expert at Aird and Berlis.

Since asking Mr. Ford to repay the money was not within the city council’s powers, the court concluded that Mr. Ford could not be found to be in conflict of interest when he voted against that illegal penalty.

The long-awaited ruling was found by some legal experts to be a rather tight, technical framing to the question of whether Mr. Ford had acted improperly.

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This content has been updated on August 23, 2014 at 12:19.