Three appellate judges in Rob Ford’s conflict of interest trial heard lawyers give two vastly different descriptions of the mayor on Monday. One, of a Ford who is “honest and frank,” the other of a mayor who is willfully blind to the law and “playing” the judges and the public.
“He’s just playing with you,” said lawyer Clayton Ruby, representing Paul Magder, the citizen who launched the legal challenge against Ford.
The remark came after Ruby read sections of the mayor’s testimony in the initial trial, in which he pledged to abide by the conflict of interest law, despite never having read it. He’d also said he believed he understood it because his father was an MPP.
Under the law, Ford will keep his seat even if he is guilty of breaking the conflict of interest law, if it was due to a mere “error in judgement.” But Justice Charles Hackland said that was not the case, finding instead that Ford was “willfully blind” to the law.
The conflict at issue is when Ford voted to overturn a motion that ordered him to repay money certain donors had given to his football foundation last year.
Ford’s lawyer, Alan Lenczner, described a more simple man who, in his desire to help kids play football, honestly misunderstood the conflict of interest law–if in fact he was incorrect in the first place.
“His conduct was honest and frank,” said Lenczner. “There was no misinformation, there was no hiding. But he believed in a principle.”
Lenczner said the fact that the mayor chose to draw attention to the issue and make a speech about it was “the hallmark of an honest man.”
Lenczner also said the mayor could not have been expected to understand the legal intricacies at play.
“Mr. Ford is a high school graduate,” he said.
On the other hand, Ruby said Ford’s conduct was designed to maintain deniability of his disregard for the law.
The judges are reserving their decision but have promised to reach one promptly and release it online at Canlii.org, a free Canadian legal database.