Toronto mayor battles for job as court appeal wraps up

Mon Jan 7, 2013 6:14pm EST
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By Russ Blinch

TORONTO (Reuters) - The ruling to remove an "honest man" such as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford from office would be draconian, the mayor's lawyer said on Monday as arguments concluded in the appeal of a case that has cast a pall of uncertainty over who will run Canada's most populous city.

The controversial mayor was evicted from his post by an Ontario Superior Court judge two years into his term after being found guilty of conflict of interest charges. He later won the right to stay on the job until the appeal could be heard.

At the conclusion of the appeal proceedings on Monday the three-judge panel said it would release its decision soon. Canadian newspapers said the process could take weeks.

In his opening submission, Ford's lawyer, Alan Lenczner, told the judges that there were "substantial errors" in the original ruling in November.

That was when Ontario Superior Court Judge Charles Hackland ruled Ford violated a conflict of interest law when he voted at city council to scrap a fine the council had imposed upon him for accepting donations from lobbyists to his football foundation.

Lenczner argued that the city council did not have the authority to hold the vote in the first place.

Lenczner, who called his client an "honest man," ended his argument by playing a recording of Ford making an impassioned plea in a council meeting that he was just trying to raise funds so more high school kids could play football.

"Does that look like the demeanor of someone trying to hide something?" Lenczner asked the judges in the standing-room-only court.   Continued...

Toronto's Rob Ford makes a statement to the media in Toronto November 27, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch