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Mayor Rob Ford appeal hearing LIVE: Council overstepped, lawyer argues

Mayor Rob Ford’s lawyer told a court Monday morning that council never had the right to order him to pay money to lobbyists.

Ford is appealing a November court decision that evicted him from office over a February violation of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. If the panel upholds the decision, Ford will no longer be mayor.

A decision is expected in a matter of weeks.

Ford voted to excuse himself from reimbursing $ 3,150 to 11 lobbyists and one corporation that donated to his charitable football foundation. He also gave an impassioned speech during the council debate.

His lawyer, Alan Lenczner, told the three-judge Divisional Court panel that the vote was null and void because council lacked the authority to demand that he pay the money in the first place.

The City of Toronto Act, Lecnzner noted, says only that council can penalize a councillor with “either” a reprimand or a suspension of pay. It makes no mention of repayment of money.

“It’s a nullity from the start,” Lecnzner argued.

Ford sat behind Lenczner with Councillor Doug Ford, his brother. He will not speak or testify during the hearing, which is expected to be completed by the end of the day.

Lenczner also presented his second argument: the Muncipal Conflict of Interest Act doesn’t apply at all in this case, which is a matter of councillor integrity that should be dealt with solely under the council Code of Conduct. The senior justice on the panel, Edward Then, countered that the trial judge noted that the law says it applies to “any matter” in which a council member has a financial interest.

Lenczner argued that the law is unjust if it denies members of council the opportunity to speak in their own defence when they are accused of integrity breaches. He quoted former Toronto integrity commissioner David Mullan, who believes they should be granted a right to speak.

Then countered that Mullan probably wouldn’t say they also should be given the right to vote on their own alleged violations — as Ford did.

The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act requires judges to remove a politician from office in the event of a violation. Leczner called the law “draconian”: it harms the electorate, he said, not only the member of council.

The opposing lawyer, Clayton Ruby, has not yet presented his counterarguments in court. In his written submission, he argues that council did have the power to make the 2010 order — and that it is invalid for Ford to challenge an earlier order in a later case.

thestar.com – News