Ford’s conflict of interest case certainly seems to be getting lots of attention, including much on this little blog too. For that, loathe as I am to do so, I really should be thanking Robbie.
It’s interesting to note that some of the comments on my earlier post echo, pretty much verbatim, what Rob’s brother Doug is now bringing out to distract from the upcoming court case; the very same anger-laced diatribes that Rob himself brought out during the election, like Kyle Rae’s $12,000 going-away party — which you either abhor and therefore must love Ford, or love and therefore are critical of Ford (and clearly there’s nothing in between). It’s the kind of logic that only the Fords can pull up — like Doug’s, “Should Rob Ford be in front of a judge for helping kids? No, he shouldn’t be”
No, he’s not in front of a judge for helping kids from “disadvantaged” neighbourhoods like Forest Hill or schools like his own Catholic Don Bosco to play football, he’s there because he broke the law and engaged in what looks an awful lot like influence peddling.
Ultimately, it leads one to wonder if the same people dredging up these comparisons and urging everyone to look every which way but forward are not on the Ford payroll, or somehow part of the same team that got him into power. I’m willing to bet that if you visit The Sun or The Star and read the comments on earlier articles related to Ford’s trial, you’ll find the same commentary and use of distraction tactics.
But that’s a bit beside the point, because in this post I wanted to talk a bit about what Rob Ford said when he sat with Clayton Ruby and his own lawyer. It’s kind of a long and tedious document owing mostly to Ford’s refusal to own up to anything and arguing over pretty much every definition of every other word Ruby would put to him.
The first four or five pages, for example, are filled with back-and-forths like:
(regarding signing the Declaration of Office when Ford was elected)
Ruby: The declaration is a serious promise?
Ford: I can’t remember what exactly the declaration says.
Ruby: But you understand it to be a serious promise?
Ford: I don’t recall what is says.
Ruby: I’m not asking you to recall what it says … were you making a serious public promise?
Ford: I don’t remember exactly what the wording said on the document…The clerk asks you to sign it, but I can’t remember exactly what it said.
Ruby: Was it a formal occassion?
Ford: How do you define “formal”?
This goes on for an excruciatingly long time with Ford insisting that signing such documents “happens at City Hall”, reiterating that he wasn’t sure what “formal” meant, was unsure of the definition of the word “serious”, and didn’t really get what “important” means. Basically, Rob has never seen a dictionary and doesn’t quite seem to have a good grasp on conversational English either.
Eventually, after huge lapses in memory, Rob reluctantly agreed that he might’ve signed some sort of document where he might’ve agreed to follow some rules, or something like that, maybe.
On page 17 it starts to get a bit more interesting when Ford is asked what his understanding of “conflict of interest” with regard to pecuniary (financial), interest means. “If the City if benefiting from it”, he replies. In other words, if the city of Toronto makes money from the result of his vote, it’s a conflict of interest. (How many Councillors are guilty of that?!) Later this changes to, “if something comes up with the printing”, an allusion to the Fords’ printing company which supplies City Hall with printing services. Either way, both responses display a gaping ignorance of what “conflict of interest” means. Or a put-on ignorance.
Thing is, Ford had gotten the book of rules just like every other Councillor — of which, of course, he has no memory but does have a clear recollection of what he ate for breakfast that morning (that’s the actual reply) — sat in and voted on meetings with reports by the Integrity Commissioner where conflicts of interest were clearly spelled out, had access to Ana Kinastowski who heads City Hall’s legal department, and could also use a part of his office budget for independent legal advice if he wants it. And don’t forget how many times Ford had recused himself in the past when the conflicts of interest were laughably far removed from him. And just in case there was any doubt, Ford is reminded how Sandra Bussin had mentioned that Ford might be in a conflict of interest prior to the meeting, and that according to the same document he kinda remembers signing, the final responsibility for such things lies with him.
Ruby then questions Ford about his previous conflicts of interest; you know, to try to wrap his head around how Ford would’ve recused himself at previous meetings but for some strange reason completely failed to do so when this glaringly obvious one came by. One of these sections questions Ford’s previous statements about how he deems conflicts of interest to arise:
Ruby: On March 8th, 2011…That’s involving your brother, Councillor Ford. That matter was the appointment of your brother, Doug Ford, to a particular entity, Region Conversation Authority [sic] in project green…I have trouble seeing how you have a pecuniary interest in Doug Ford’s appointment.
Ford: Again, whatever the staff tells me to do, I do.
Ruby: You don’t get or give money to your brother? You each earn your own incomes?
Ford: We have our own incomes, but if he needs five bucks for lunch, I give him 20 bucks or 10 bucks for lunch.
A similar line of questioning follows in which Ruby asks Ford about development along Lakeshore Boulevard; Ford also made himself scarce for that Council meeting because of a court proceeding against him (probably the Boardwalk Pub one). “Okay. It doesn’t seem to me to be involving any economic interest,” says Ruby.
After one additional example, Ruby comes to the point:
Ruby: So in all these conflicts of interest, they’re all very different, yes?
Ford: It all depends how you define “different”.
Eventually we get to the meat and potatoes where Clayton Ruby asks why Rob Ford thought that a vote which was solely and exclusively about a punishment against him wouldn’t be considered a conflict of interest:
Ruby: In your affidavit at paragraph 16 you say: “…There is no financial consequence to any of the recommendations put forward by the integrity commissioner…” Can you explain what you mean by that?
Ford: I don’t see how the City benefits from this under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
Ruby: And therefore there is no need for you to worry about a conflict, correct?
Ford: I wasn’t given…I wasn’t told by legal to declare a conflict.
Ruby: I know that, but I’m trying to figure out what was going on in your head.
Ford: I don’t remember what was going on in my head. I have thousands of thoughts that go through my head every day.
Although earlier in the deposition Ford barely understood what the words Municipal Conflict of Interest Act meant, he now appears to be referring to it. At least he’s sticking to his “all of Council is guilty” logic that the City must somehow benefit financially from this.
Ruby: When you say now: “…There was no financial consequence to any of the recommendations put forward by the integrity commissioner…” Didn’t the integrity commissioner recommend earlier that you pay back, council adopted that, and now they were asking for a time limit on proof that that had happened? In your mind…
Ford: I don’t recall exactly what it was, but yes, the integrity commissioner said I should pay this back.
Ruby: And in your mind, that is not a financial consequence?
Ford: It has nothing to do with the City under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. I don’t see how the City benefits from from this.
Perhaps the most telling and laughable section appears on pages 72 to 73 where, after all of this has been established, Ruby asks Ford about his speech (available on my previous post), during that fateful Council meeting:
Ruby: Okay. After your speech, Councillor Ainslie brought a motion to rescind the previous council order requiring you to reimburse the $3,150. Is that correct? … I take it that [the speech] wasn’t an accident? It was deliberate?
Ford: No, I speak when I want to speak.
Ruby: It had nothing to do with a deliberate choice?
Ford: You’re only allowed to speak once at council on every item…You can speak to a deferral for two minutes after that, but if someone amends the item, no, you’re not allowed to speak to it. You’re allowed to speak once for five minutes, plus a two-minute extension.
Ruby: All right. So there was no significance in terms of whether you spoke or whether you voted for the fact that Councillor Aisnlie brought that motion. Am I correct?
Ford: I couldn’t speak to it. It’s against the law…It’s against procedural bylaws. You cannot speak once you have spoke on the item once, and I spoke on the item.
That’s right, Ford wouldn’t want to break procedural bylaws (by order of Council) by talking too much, but having to repay money (by order of Council) can be completely ignored, and the more serious provincial law governing conflicts of interest doesn’t need to be taken seriously at all. If he were up on federal charges like murder, I wonder how absolutely insignificant they’d be to him.
The questioning goes on and on about how Ford dealt with the repayment order, how he understood the Integrity Commissioner’s reports and so on, but it’s really this last exchange that defines what a joke any of Ford’s defense is.
Ford and his brother typify this as “politics”. In fact, they typify anything and anyone who disagrees with them as “politics”, their ignorance of laws and common sense as “misunderstandings”, and anything that smacks of benefiting the common good as pinko Communism.
The real problem with Ford, aside from believing he can pick and choose which laws to follow, is that he’s personally offensive, and has been from day one. He shows no remorse for any of his actions, and if he stays in office there’s no reason to believe that things will get anything but worse. Much worse.
It’s not that I believe that politicians, as a group, are necessarily much better, but at least that push-and-pull of public perception keeps most of them in check. For Ford, that’s obviously not the case, and if we allow it, he’s going to redefine the office of the Mayor to something ugly, decadent, and genuinely offensive, if not outright criminal.
I wouldn’t blame you if you knew little about the upcoming trial of our ignominious, embarrassing mayor, Rob Ford.
I follow him and his merry band of criminals and I must admit that even I didn’t know the full extent of the abuses of power and influence that are to be tried at the upcoming court date, but hopefully I can make sense of it all in this post and you’ll be able to see why this is such a serious issue (and why the man has to go).
The facts thus far…
Ford is very much the front man for the Rob Ford Football Foundation which, under his name and to his political benefit, funds a number of schools around Toronto. Here’s Rob himself to introduce it:
According to the Notice of Application by Clayton Ruby’s office — he’s the lawyer leading the charge against the Mayor — Ford used the City of Toronto logo on both the envelope and letter to solicit donations to his charity prior to the 2010 election. Just to make sure everyone knew it was Rob, he had it gold-embossed with yet another City of Toronto logo and “Rob Ford Etobicoke North Councillor” on it.
This can easily be seen as vote buying — you donate to Rob’s foundation, he gets you tax receipts and special favours when he gets into the Mayor’s seat. Even if that never happens (though with Ford, it most likely would), the chance of it happening is eliminated by having things like the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (in fact, that’s the sole reason for this law to exist in the first place!)
Maybe Robbie didn’t know that it could be perceived this way?
Not a fucking chance.
He had done something similar twice before (noted in the same Notice), and was slapped on the wrist for it by Janet Leiper, the Integrity Commissioner. There are also numerous previous examples that clearly demonstrate that Ford was sensitive, sometimes too much so, to conflicts of interest at City Hall. So claiming that he didn’t know would be an outright and easily provable lie.
But this is just the beginning of the story.
In mid-August of 2010, Ford had a formal complaint lodged against him on this issue which was investigated by the Integrity Commissioner. There are some out there, like Giorgio Mammoliti, the same Councillor, and Ford’s personal buddy on Council, who said he’ll openly break the law if things aren’t done his way, who suggest that the I.C. has it in for Ford, basically suggesting that because she’s doing her job, she’s engaging in some sort of personal vendetta.
My own meeting with the Integrity Commissioner suggests she’s one of the most balanced, fair, and carefully-treading individuals I’ve ever met; by far the most professional and unbiased lawyer the city could find. The video above demonstrates exactly the same demeanor I encountered.
But I guess neither Mammoliti nor Ford can possibly imagine that an Integrity Commissioner might be engaged in, oh, I don’t know, investigating breaches of integrity. Keep in mind, too, that she doesn’t do this of her own volition; investigations only ever begin when a citizen files a formal complaint, including an affidavit, under oath (it’s not easy and requires a lot of hoop jumping).
Maybe this is why, instead of speaking to allegations of impropriety, Rob Ford spent his time “explaining” how his program works, how the “Rob Ford Football Foundation” is not in any way about him but about the kids, how he’s not involved in the process at all except that the schools involved make requests directly through him by sending him invoices, he then sends the requisitions onto his foundation, and they send out cheques and cheritable receipts to donors, and so on. All perfectly above board!
Notice towards the end of the video where he holds up the letterhead (sent to Toronto schools), demonstrating that it doesn’t mention that he’s mayor — “you would have no idea that I was a politician … if you didn’t know, obviously, if you were in another city” (Council understandably laughs). The sample letter simply just shows his mug in the corner and “ROB FORD” in big, bold, banner type at the top. So, yeah, no connection to Ford at all.
Ford then admits that he used City letterhead during his campaign: “I was wrong! I took all that off!”
You may be asking why he’s babbling about having to repay money out of his own pocket in that video.
Well, that August 2010 investigation I mentioned earlier found that Ford had breached the City Council Code of Conduct (on numerous occassions), and that in order to avoid being held to account for it, he should repay the lobbyists who donated money to his foundation.
Had he simply given the money back, a mere $3,150 (pittance for a millionaire), he could’ve simply walked away from the affair and continued on his jolly way (a Code of Conduct violation isn’t as serious as something like the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act).
But he ignored what was then a mere recommendation to repay and later that month Council voted that he violated the Code of Conduct and ordered him, under a legally binding obligation, to pay back the lobbyists.
Oh, and Rob Ford voted on that, and an additional motion to reconsider.
If you still don’t get what’s wrong with this, consider why we wouldn’t allow criminals to sit as both their own jury and judge — that’s very clearly a conflict of interest, exactly like Rob Ford sitting in on a vote to dismiss a punishment against him.
But Ford did it, and this wouldn’t be the last time.
In the meantime, the Integrity Commissioner followed up with a litany of payment requests and reports to Council (six, to be precise), about Ford’s complete refusal to pay back the money.
Finally, in October, Ford claimed that he had written to the lobbyists and they said they didn’t want their money back. (Their politician is bought and paid for, after all)
The Integrity Commissioner replied that the Lobbyist Registrar (yet another office now involved), had contacted the lobbyists and told them that they were violating the Lobbyist Code of Conduct. The lobbyists wisely pulled back their offer to let Ford off the hook and demanded their money back.
Okay, let’s catch our breath here for a second and do a quick wrap-up (because it ain’t over yet):
Well, you know, this isn’t enough for Ford. He isn’t satisfied with repeatedly flaunting being above the law or endangering the city’s citizens, he has to drive home his complete and utter lack of respect for his office, the rule of law, and even common decency.
Roughly one and a half years later, Ford’s buddy Mammoliti (who, aside from brimming with criminal tendencies himself, is also a spineless toady bent on really fucking up the city every way possible), tabled a motion to let Ford off the hook completely and just fuhgetaboudit!
I guess the Councillors who previously voted on this forgot what it was all about (or were tired of it), and decided unanimously to adopt the motion.
Oh, and Ford voted on this one too.
But not before another vote (on which Ford also voted), that would’ve extended the time he had to repay until October 15 of this year. Of course, kind of a moot point since the follow-up motion got Ford off completely, but I put it in for a total vote tally (I’m not including additional votes to extend speakers’ times and to end the debate — which Ford was also in on).
So at this point, over a historic journey of about two years…
Ford directly, knowingly, brazenly contravened the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act no less than four times.
He believes it’s okay to influence City Hall, and especially the Mayor, through underhanded lobbying techniques via obvious sham organizations, and to do it all out in the broad daylight for everyone to see.
And then comes the deposition that Ford did for Clayton Ruby.
I’m going to cover this endless stream of bickering over whether or not Ford takes his office seriously, or whether or not he remembers a single damn thing, in the next post. If you get a moment, read it through (it’s about 132 pages) — I’m sure that now that you know the facts, you’ll find Fords answers as outrageous and insulting as I do.
And if you happen to have the day off this September 5th, perhaps I’ll see you down at the Provincial Courts, where if there is any rule of law and justice, they must surely prevail.