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Lawyer Clayton Ruby, right, and his client Paul Magder give details of a civil lawsuit against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford at a media briefing in the Press Gallery at City Hall on March 12, 2012.Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

A prominent Toronto lawyer is trying to remove Mayor Rob Ford from office for allegedly breaching a conflict-of-interest law when he voted against paying back $3,150 donated to his football foundation.

If a court finds that Mr. Ford broke the rule knowingly, he would automatically lose his job, said lawyer Clayton Ruby, who filed the legal action on behalf of citizen Paul Magder.

Mr. Ford would need to prove he broke the rule "through inadvertence or by reason of an error in judgment," to escape that penalty.

"I'm sorry is not enough," Mr. Ruby told a news conference Monday. "It doesn't get you off the hook for a minute. I'm sorry doesn't count."

The legal case has its roots in the way Mr. Ford solicited donations for the Rob Ford Football Foundation, which has donated tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment to sports programs at underprivileged schools.

Before he was elected mayor, Mr. Ford used his Ward 2 Etobicoke North stationery and the city's logo and embossed gold seal to seek contributions to the foundation, something the city's integrity commissioner warned violated council's code of conduct.

In August 2010, two months before Mr. Ford was elected mayor, Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper recommended he repay $3,150 in football donations made by 11 lobbyists and one corporation who had business dealings with the city. Council voted to back her up.

Despite six follow-up letters, Mr. Ford refused to reimburse the money.

When Ms. Leiper took the issue back to council last month, council voted 22-12 to rescind its earlier decision and take no action against the mayor.

One of the 22 council members who spoke and voted in favour of that outcome was the mayor himself – and that's when he broke the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, according to Mr. Ruby.

"It's not as if Mayor Ford is a novice councillor," Mr. Ruby said. "He knows the legislation. So that's an important point."

Mr. Magder's legal action, filed Friday, asks the court to ban Mr. Ford from standing for election for seven years. The court would have discretion on that point, but not on whether the mayor be kicked out of office if he's found to have knowingly breached the act, Mr. Ruby said.

The court would also have to determine Mr. Ford had a financial interest; although he was ordered to pay back $3,150, the reimbursements could have come from the foundation's coffers, not Mr. Ford's pocket.

Nobody from the mayor's office was immediately available to comment.

However, Mr. Ford has said he no longer uses official letterhead or identifies himself as a politician when he solicits donations for his football foundation.

Mr. Magder, 57, said he has no axe to grind when it comes to the mayor.

"I'm fed up with all the stuff I see going on in politics, basically," he said. "This was just one more thing. For me, municipal politics is the most important politics actually, because that affects us everyday."