Mayor May Not: we rundown Rob Ford’s recent (and lucky) close calls in court
Between a libel suit, a conflict-of-interest case and an election audit, Rob Ford is spending more time in court than Lindsay Lohan. But with news yesterday that the mayor won’t be prosecuted for improper campaign spending, Ford is free of serious legal challenges for the first time in more than a year. (That said, don’t shelf the #FordCourt hashtag just yet—he still has almost two years left in office, after all.) Below, we look back on the mayor’s biggest legal snafus and why he always seems to get a little lucky when it comes to the law.
The Election Audit
The opponent: Lawyer Max Reed and left-leaning activist Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, both members of Fair Elections Toronto
The issue: A forensic auditor identified apparent violations in Ford’s 2010 campaign, including expenses from before its official launch, improper corporate donations and expenses in excess of the spending limit.
The outcome: A three-person city committee accepted the findings of the audit, but decided not to appoint a prosecutor to the case. Chaleff-Freudenthaler wouldn’t rule out the option of a private prosecution against the mayor.
The reaction: Ford called yesterday “a great day for democracy.” Council foe Adam Vaughan, however, doesn’t agree: “There’s not a rule he didn’t break. There are no consequences if you break the rules. And if you find rules that are broken, it doesn’t matter.”
How lucky? A little. Although even if the court found Ford guilty, he would’ve almost certainly faced no more than a fine (or some other sort of similar wrist-slap).
The Conflict-of-Interest Case
The opponent: Resident Paul Magder (a family friend of Chaleff-Freudenthaler), represented by power lawyer Clayton Ruby
The issue: In February 2012, Ford asked council to excuse him from repaying donations that lobbyists made to his football charity and voted on the matter—a no-no, since council members are supposed to recuse themselves when they have a financial interest in the vote.
The outcome: In November, a judge decided Ford breached the law and ordered him out of office. Ford filed an appeal, and the Ontario Divisional Court overturned the earlier decision. So Ford stays (the lawyers are still battling over whether Magder should pay $120,000 for Ford’s legal fees).
The reaction: This time, it was Doug Ford who called it “a great day for democracy.” The city’s columnists seemed united in their relief that Toronto avoided a potentially ugly replacement process.
How lucky? Very. He was so close to being vacating the mayor’s seat that the political jockeying had already begun.
The Libel Case
The opponent: Boardwalk Pub owner George Foulidis, whom the city granted a 20-year monopoly on selling food and drinks on the Eastern Beaches
The issue: During the 2010 election campaign, Ford implied that Foulidis resorted to ”corruption and skulduggery” to obtain the deal. Foulidis demanded an apology, Ford refused and Foulidis filed a $6-million defamation suit.
The outcome: The Ontario Superior Court dismissed the complaint on December 27 on the grounds that Ford’s words were neither defamatory nor clearly aimed at Foulidis.
The reaction: The timing of the decision, right after Christmas, meant it didn’t receive the same media scrutiny as the others. Ford used the occasion to vow to “continue fighting to represent the best interests of Toronto taxpayers at city hall.”
How lucky? He’s still not 100 per cent safe—the restaurateur filed an appeal in late January.