Toronto's combative mayor ordered to leave office

Mon Nov 26, 2012 4:53pm EST
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By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto's Rob Ford, a magnet for controversy during two years as mayor of Canada's largest city, was ordered out of office on Monday after a judge found him guilty of breaking conflict-of-interest laws.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Charles Hackland ruled Ford acted wrongly when he voted at city council to scrap a fine imposed on him for accepting donations to his football foundation from lobbyists.

Ford, who says he plans to appeal the ruling, is one of several Canadian municipal leaders to land in hot water in recent weeks.

The mayors of Montreal and Laval, Quebec, quit earlier this month after allegations made against their administrations in a high-profile inquiry into corruption in Quebec. Both deny wrongdoing. The mayor of London, Ontario, has denied fraud charges leveled against him and has not resigned.

In Ford's case, the judge gave him 14 days to leave office but did not bar him from running in a new election for Toronto mayor, opening the door to more political in-fighting.

"I'll fight with the appeal and if I lose, there will be a by-election and I guarantee I'll be the first one in there," said Ford, who blamed the ruling on "left-wing politics" in a divided city hall.

Ford, a larger-than-life figure who has courted controversy for skipping council meetings to coach high-school football, won power on a promise to "stop the gravy train" at city hall. But cutting costs without cutting services has been harder than he expected, and his popularity has fallen steeply.

Ford has 30 days to appeal the ruling and can apply for a stay of the decision in order to remain in office after the 14 days the judge gave him. If he loses on both counts, city council can either appoint a caretaker mayor until the end of his term in December 2014, or call a special election.   Continued...

Mayor Rob Ford arrives at his office in Toronto November 26, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch