The mayor of Canada’s largest city on Friday won his appeal of a previous ruling that ordered him out of office for violating conflict of interest laws.
The three-judge Toronto Divisional court panel agreed with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s lawyers, who had argued the previous ruling was legally flawed.
Ford said he was thankful for the decision, and he has “enormous respect for the judicial system.”
“This has been a very challenging time for all of us,” Ford said during a press conference. “It’s very humbling to know how many people supported me and this city.”
An Ontario Superior Court justice in November last year ordered Ford removed as mayor for taking part in a city council vote that he repay money he raised for his private football foundation using city letterhead.
Ford, who blamed “left-wing politics” for the ruling, filed an appeal. The removal order was put on hold pending the appeals court decision.
Ford had his staff send 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 US$3,125 to the donors from his own pocket.
The city council adopted the commissioner’s findings, but he never made the repayments.
The three-judge panel ruled on Friday that council had no authority to order Ford to repay the money. Therefore, as his lawyers had argued, Ford had no financial interest in the matter on which he voted.
“Here, the evidence is clear that Mr Ford never personally received any of the money donated for the football foundation,” the judges found. “All funds were received by an arm’s length entity, the Toronto Community Foundation.”
The lawyer for the man who launched the case against Ford said the mayor won on a technicality and that his client would take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“We believe that there are serious errors of law in the judgement,” lawyer Clayton Ruby said in a statement.
Despite the legal win, Ford’s woes are not done. An audit of his campaign expenses is pending.