The mayor of Canada's largest city was ordered out of office Monday after a judge found he had flouted conflict of interest rules for refusing to repay funds he solicited for his high school football team using city letterhead when he was a councilman.
Mayor Rob Ford blamed "the left wing politics" for the ruling and said he would appeal. The development is the latest in a string of embarrassments for the colorful mayor who has repeatedly found himself in the news since he was elected in 2010.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland said Ford showed "willful blindness" to the law and said he cannot claim that it was an error in judgment made in good faith.
At issue was Ford's participation in a city council vote on repaying money he had solicited for his football program. Ford is a volunteer coach of a local high school team.
The judge said Ford showed a "stubborn sense of entitlement" and a "dismissive and confrontational attitude" toward the city's integrity commissioner.
The judge's ruling takes effect in two weeks, but Ford can seek an order that will allow him to stay in office while he appeals.
The judge said Ford had his staff sent out letters using the city of Toronto logo and his status as city councilman to solicit funds for his football foundation. Donors included lobbyists and a corporation that does business with the city of Toronto.
The city's integrity commissioner found Ford's actions broke a conduct code and recommended he pay back $3,150 to the donors from his own pocket.
The council adopted the commissioner's findings and sanction in a resolution Ford voted against — but he never made the repayments, despite several reminders from the commissioner.
Ford vowed to run again if he loses his appeal.
"I'm in no conflict here," Ford said in a packed media scrum outside his office. "This comes down to left wing politics. The left wing wants me out of here and they'll do anything in their power. I'm going to fight tooth and nail to hold onto my job. And if they do for some reason get me out I'll be running right back as soon as the next election."
Clayton Ruby, who represented a local Toronto resident in the conflict of interest lawsuit against Ford, said Ford did it to himself.
"If you break the rules there is a price to pay. It's important for the courts to assert that nobody is above the law, Rob Ford included," Ruby said. "Rob Ford has said all along that he did this for the kids. He deserves credit for working with those kids, but he should have remembered that he had an obligation to those kids to set a good example for them. He should not have taken lobby money for his football team."
Ford, a right-wing city councilor for years, promised to end wasteful spending at city hall when he became mayor, tapping into a well of voter anger with his "stop the gravy train" message. Ford also said Toronto would be better off if it didn't accept more immigrants. Half of Toronto's population was born outside Canada.
He has often been in the news since. Controversies involving Ford include accusations he made obscene gestures at residents from his car, published pictures of him reading while driving on the highway and high profile altercations with a Toronto Transit worker as well as a Toronto Star reporter.