As Mayor Rob Ford’s troubles deepen, a host of questions remain. Among them:
Could Mr. Ford’s admission that he smoked crack be used as the basis of a criminal charge?
No. “It’s fanciful,” lawyer Julian Falconer says. “Police prosecute based on actual possession.”
Could the video in which Mr. Ford is alleged to be smoking a substance through a crack pipe be the basis of a criminal charge?
Highly improbable, Mr. Falconer says. “I would want to ensure, regardless of the players involved, that there was actual evidence. A good prosecution needs to shut out notions such as satiating a public outcry.”
Do members of the public or city council have an avenue to challenge Mr. Ford’s behaviour?
Yes. Members of the public or of council could apply to the city’s Integrity Commissioner for a declaration that Mr. Ford has not demonstrated “good conduct,” under the City’s Code of Conduct, which says, “Members of Council are expected to perform their duties in office and arrange their private affairs in a manner that promotes public confidence and will bear close public scrutiny.” The punishment is a reprimand or up to 90 days suspension of pay.
Are there any other avenues for challenge?
Yes. In law, the mayor is the city’s chief executive officer, and is required to uphold the “purposes of the city,” as set out in the Ontario Municipal Act and City of Toronto Act. One may apply for a court application arguing that, by his conduct, Mr. Ford did not uphold those purposes. “The role of the mayor is to set an example through integrity, honesty and good dealings, to demonstrate leadership to other members of council and to reinforce the reputation of the city in the eyes of its residents and throughout the world,” municipal law expert George Rust-D’Eye said.
What are the consequences to a mayor of such a declaration?
There are no legal consequences. It may stand as an example to future transgressors.
Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, accuses Police Chief Bill Blair of bias for saying that he was “disappointed” in the mayor and that the events have been “traumatic” for the city. Does Doug Ford have a legitimate complaint?
No. “While Chief Blair might not have been entirely neutral, he comes nowhere near any improper conduct,” said Mr. Falconer, who has often been a police critic (he has represented the families of mentally ill people shot dead by police). The chief’s comments could be interpreted to mean he was saddened by what he saw on the alleged drug videotape, Mr. Rust-D’Eye said.
Doug Ford alleged that Andrew Pringle, a member of the police services board, put himself in a conflict of interest in going fishing with Chief Blair. Did he?
Legally, no. Conflict usually involves a financial interest that gives someone an extra motive in voting on something, Mr. Rust-D’Eye said. As for perception, the question is whether fishing with the chief may be perceived to give Mr. Pringle mixed motives in his decisions on the police services board, a civilian oversight body.
Mr. Ford’s lawyer, Dennis Morris, says he will look into whether he could obtain the release of the alleged drug video, now in the hands of police, under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Does he have a chance?
No. Section 8 of the act sets out broad exceptions for law enforcement, such as interfering with an investigation or a fair trial. “This is potential evidence in a criminal prosecution. It’s absolutely inconceivable,” Mr. Falconer said. Mr. Morris says police have offered to show the video to Mr. Ford and put him under a gag order.