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):
- Ford used City of Toronto letterhead, plus his name and position all over envelopes and letters sent to lobbyists asking for donations to his football charity during the election, to which he admitted:
He used his influence and office to solicit donations for the Rob Ford Football Foundation
- He was warned multiple times prior to this incident about similar breaches, and had on numerous occassions recused himself from votes which might indicate a conflict of interest for him:
He clearly knows about conflicts of interest and about recusal from votes
- The Rob Ford Football Foundation does not operate at arms length, requiring schools to send invoices and requests directly to Rob Ford:
He is directly involved in the day-to-day operations of his foundation, not disconnected from it as he claims
- The Integrity Commissioner warned Ford that this was a big no-no (remember this wasn’t the first time either), and gave him an out (considering his wealth, it woulnd’t have been a huge burden). When Ford didn’t respond, Council voted that he must repay the money, by law — Ford voted against that motion, and then again to reconsider it:
He knowingly broke the Municipal Conflict if Interest Act twice
- The Integrity Commissioner followed up many times to remind both Rob and Council that he had failed to follow up. Instead of doing as he was required to do, by law, he wrote lobbyists asking to be forgiven. The Integrity Commissioner replied to both the lobbyists and Ford that this would amount to further breaches:
He tried to weasel out of his obligation and ignored the law
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.