Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s attempt to have the citizen who launched a conflict-of-interest case against him pick up his legal tab has been rejected by an Ontario court, a decision the mayor called “ridiculous.”
The Divisional Court, in a two-page ruling issued Tuesday, denied Mr. Ford’s request to be reimbursed more than $116,000 for the case that nearly ousted him from office.
“It’s ridiculous. I won it fair and square,” the mayor told a small group of reporters at city hall. He added: “I’ve got to swallow over 100 grand. … That’s a lot of money.”
The conflict-of-interest case centred on a vote in February of last year by Mr. Ford to let himself off the hook for failing to repay $3,150 in improper donations to the Rob Ford Football Foundation, which provides football equipment for underprivileged high schools.
The Superior Court ordered the mayor removed from office in November, ruling he violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act by speaking to and voting on the item. The Divisional Court overturned that ruling in January – it said city council did not have the authority to ask the mayor to pay back the funds in the first place.
Clayton Ruby, one of the lawyers for Paul Magder, the citizen who launched the case, has filed leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. A decision on whether the country’s highest court will hear the case is not expected for months.
The mayor’s legal team had argued Mr. Magder was pursuing a political agenda when he launched the case. Alan Lenczner, one of the mayor’s lawyers, had said the legal costs were “entirely reasonable.”
Mr. Ruby countered that asking his client to foot the bill – as is normal in Canada’s loser-pays court system – would be “an embarrassment to the administration of justice.” He said Mr. Magder was acting in the public interest, and an award of costs could deter others from using the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act to hold elected officials to account.
Mr. Ruby also said the mayor was likely to be indemnified for his legal fees, at least in part, through insurance and indemnity programs.
The mayor said Tuesday he won’t go that route. “People say I could go to the city and get it. I’m not going to do that,” he said.
The three-judge panel offered three reasons for Tuesday’s decision.
First, it noted success in the proceedings was mixed. Although the mayor won on appeal, three of the four grounds he raised were unsuccessful. Second, the court said the case raised novel legal issues with respect to matters of public importance. And third, the court said it was reasonable for Mr. Magder to pursue the application.
Mr. Ruby said his client was pleased with the decision.
“He’s really relieved that after all the vile things Ford said about him and his motives,” Mr. Ruby said, “that the court went out of its way to say that he was a genuine public-interest litigant with a reasonable cause.”
With a report from Elizabeth Church