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.