Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s legal team says it cost more than $116,000 to fight his conflict-of-interest case, and after winning his appeal they are asking the citizen who launched the lawsuit to pay up.
As is normal in Canada’s loser-pays court system, Mr. Ford’s lawyer, Alan Lenczner, has filed his client’s legal bill with the Ontario Divisional Court, where the mayor won a reversal of a lower-court ruling that had ordered him out of office for violating conflict-of-interest rules.
The bill for $107,070 in legal fees and $9,335.12, including HST, for expenses such as photocopying, transcripts and phone bills, covers both Mr. Ford’s initial court fight, his request for leave to appeal, and his appeal. In all, two lawyers and two articling students were involved.
In his submission to Divisional Court, Mr. Lenczner says the costs are “entirely reasonable” noting that lawyer Clayton Ruby, acting for Paul Magder, the citizen who filed the conflict complaint against the mayor, had asked for $150,746 in costs for just the initial fight before the Ontario Superior Court. Mr. Ruby has not submitted his costs for the Divisional Court case. His bill for the lower court case was not paid, as the decision was appealed.
Mr. Lenczner's costs are listed on a "partial indemnity basis," meaning the rates he charged the mayor are discounted. Normally, a lawyer like Mr. Lenczner - a highly regarded veteran litigator - would charge much more than the $350 an hour he lists in his submission on behalf of Mr. Ford.
It is unclear just how much Mr. Magder will end up paying. His lawyers could try to argue that a court should not force him to pay all of the mayor's costs, given the public-interest nature of the case. Political fundraising could also end up offsetting the bill.
Mr. Lenczner argues that his costs are within Mr. Magder’s “reasonable expectation” since Mr. Ruby states in his court submission that his client was bearing the risk of having to pay his opponent’s legal bills. Plus, Mr. Lenczner says, Mr. Ruby was acting pro bono, meaning Mr. Magder will not have to cover his own legal costs.
Mr. Magder “understood even before the inception of his Application that, if he was successful, his lawyers would receive costs from Ford which they would keep in their entirety. He also understood that, if he was unsuccessful, he would have to indemnify Rob Ford for his costs on a partial indemnity basis but not be required to pay his own lawyers,” Mr. Lenczner’s submission reads.
The Divisional Court could agree with the submitted bill, or it could disagree and order Mr. Magder to pay a smaller amount.
If the court opts for a reduced amount, council was advised at its meeting this week that the mayor could be reimbursed for his court costs if he files an application.
Mr. Ruby was unavailable for comment.
The mayor’s conflict-of-interest case centred on a council debate last year on a ruling by the city’s integrity commission in which Mr. Ford voted to let himself off the hook in repaying $3,150 in donations to his football foundation made by lobbyists at city hall.
The mayor had been ordered removed from office in November, but that ruling was overturned last month by the appeal court.
In light of the findings of the appeal court, the mayor’s brother Doug Ford said Thursday the integrity commissioner should step down, or at a minimum make a formal public apology to the mayor.
“Through her lack of due diligence, she has almost destroyed a family. The least she could do is apologizing,” the Etobicoke councillor said. “It should not have gone to court. Because of her decision, it ended up causing major hurt, not only to Rob and his family, to the city. It was unstable there for a month or so because of her decision.
In Mr. Magder’s lawyers’ initial cost submission after the initial lower-court win, his lawyers justified their $150,000 bill by highlighting the “significant research” required on the “somewhat vague” Municipal Confli ct of Interest Act, and that Mr. Ford’s “long tenure on City Council” meant sorting through “a large amount of materials” relating to the mayor’s “previous conflicts of interests.”
They also blamed the mayor for drawing things out by raising issues of jurisdiction and whether the city was overreaching its authority late in the proceedings, contesting a move to have Mr. Ford testify.
Mr. Magder, lawyers also blamed Mr. Ford’s inconsistency during the proceedings, which required extra legal research to be undertaken: “The respondent suggested in his sworn affidavit that City staff had an obligation to advise him of conflicts of interests. It was later conceded... that staff were under no such obligation.”
They also said Mr. Ford “failed to recall many important facts during his out-of-court cross-examination” such as whether he received training or guidance on conflict of interest issues, his discussions with city staff, and why he once previously declared a conflict-of-interest at council.
With files from Elizabeth Church