|The Ford Bros. "running" from the courtroom |
credit: Dave Abel, Toronto Sun
[Rob] Ford was elected as councillor three times before being elected mayor. He received council handbook each time but says "I don't remember ever getting a handbook." [Clayton Ruby asks:]"You have no memory of ever getting it, studying it or reading it?" "No" - David Rider, Toronto Star Live BlogUnless you've been living under a rock the past year and a half you probably know that the mayor of the City of Toronto is a world-class buffoon. News of his embarrassing "exploits" has traveled around the globe, so you don't have to actually live in or near Toronto to be aware of just how poorly qualified this man is to be in his current position. Hell, he's probably poorly qualified to get himself dressed in the morning. He's driven at high speeds while reading a speech, because he's a "busy" man. He's repeatedly demonstrated his homophobia by refusing to attend even the most innocuous of Pride events in the city he "leads". He mugged a journalist and stole his cell phone, he may or may not have driven past the open doors of a streetcar, he swore at a 911 operator after calling about a comedy sketch gone awry, he gave a mom and her six-year-old daughter the finger after they admonished him for texting while driving. And don't even get me started on his hilarious antics while he was a city councillor. Good times, good times. Well, RoFo has taken his act to a whole other level this week. He is either perjuring himself on the stand under cross-examination or he is the single dumbest person ever to hold the office of mayor in Toronto -- and that list includes Mel Lastman and June Rowlands.
Also notable: a few minutes ago, Ford said that he didn’t attend council orientation sessions when he was first elected in 2000, because his dad was an MPP and he felt he knew how government worked. - Steve Kupferman, The Torontoist Live BlogFord is in court this week to defend himself against conflict of interest charges brought against him by a private Torontonian, Paul Magder, (not, surprisingly, the Paul Magder of the Sunday Shopping legal fight of the '80s and early '90s). The Torontoist lays it all out brilliantly; in summary, the Integrity Commissioner found that Ford, while still councillor, violated the Code of Conduct in soliciting donations for his football charity on City letterhead; council voted to have Ford repay the $3,150 out of his own pocket; Ford has never paid back the money; after he became mayor, council voted to quash their previous demand for the money as a show of good faith in the new mayor. All of that is shady enough, but it's not actually the basis for this suit. At the meeting in February of this year where council overturned the earlier ruling, Ford himself not only delivered a speech but voted for the overturning. Anyone over the age of perhaps ten years old understands why that's a "Conflict of Interest" at the most basic level; Ford, however, absolutely believes it was not.
In his testimony, Ford repeated his view that it's only a conflict of interest if both he and the city benefit from the vote. - David Rider, Toronto Star Live Blog"It's only a conflict if both Ford and the city benefit from the vote." This is his firm belief; we know this to be true because it was his mantra yesterday, repeated myriad times at various moments throughout the day. As I wrote earlier, it's clear to me that Ford is either perjuring himself or he's a complete fool. Neither possibility is particularly palatable to me. And as the day wore on, we actually never really got close to resolving that matter one way or the other. My money is on Ford being ignorant and dim-witted; however, it is possible that he is just playing the "stick to message" card for as long as he can, as it's the very same device that swept him into office. At one point, Ruby made Ford read the very same passage that Ruby had read to him in his deposition back in June of this year (during which, by the Star's count, Ford said, "I don't remember," 89 times). Then Ruby asks Ford if he's ever read the passage before, to which Ford replies, "No."
“I’ve never read that before,” Ford said.Isn't that hilarious? What a card that mayor is! A real Henny Youngman. Never mind the fact that Ford was told exactly which section of the code he violated -- and had it read out loud to him just two months ago -- and yet never once thought it might be a good idea to actually, you know, read that passage himself. In case it might some day come up in, say, a trial or something.
“You have to have read it,” Ruby said, adding they read it at Ford’s deposition in June.
“You read it to me, but I haven’t read it,” Ford said. - Don Peat, Sun reporter, in his Good Gravy blog
To me, he comes off like an eight-year-old brat that refuses to be disciplined and could really use a good dose of old-timey corporal punishment (another matter in the news quite a bit this week) or, depending on your viewpoint, at least some serious censuring. Here we have a petulant semi-adult man acting smug and dickish in the biggest courtroom in the country and the audience actually laughed out loud. I can't really say I blame them, though: I'd likely have reacted the same way, but not out of amusement; rather, I expect I (as I imagine was the case with most of yesterday's spectator) would be laughing at the absolutely surreal absurdity of the whole thing.
"Did you find it embarrassing to have all these reports criticizing you?" Ruby asks.Ford spent much of the day deflecting, deflecting, deflecting. Despite his assuring everyone that his own personal (and ridiculous) definition of a "Conflict of Interest" made him 100% certain that he had done nothing wrong, he said that he might have done things differently in this case had someone warned him about the consequences. But even then he made it sound like he wasn't upset that anything was improper; no, he was lamenting the fact that he had to spend a couple of days in that courtroom being embarrassed (assuming he's even capable of that emotion, which it appears he is not from that previous quote).
Ford replies: "I'm not embarrassed about my job or my political career. I think I've done very well at it" - David Rider, Toronto Star Live Blog
Asked again if Ford would have voted in February if he had been warned of a possible conflict, Ford says he would have declared a conflict "if somebody had told me that, that I'd be here, in retrospect".It sounds to me like RoFo is more upset by the "inconvenience" of the court appearances than any possible impropriety that may have occurred. This is simply not good enough. No matter what the outcome of this case is, I hope that the final verdict includes some mandate whereby Ford is obligated to take a course in basic legal issues concerning the office of mayor. A pipe dream, probably, but I can still hold out some hope.
Ford: "If I had known I would be here today I would have declared a conflict."
- David Rider, Toronto Star Live Blog
Ruby asked Ford if he would agree he had a “special responsibility” to lead in the area of conflict of interest legislation. Ford disagreed.In the meantime, the waters got even murkier late in the day. After literally hours of Ruby hammering away at all of the inconsistencies that make up the life and times of Robert Bruce Ford, there came a time when the court was shown a video of RoFo declaring a conflict of interest on a different report made about him by the Integrity Commissioner. "In the video," writes Steve Kupferman in the Torontoist, "Ford clearly says that he will absent himself from the debate because it’s about him." Ruby seizes on these words straight from Ford's mouth and presses the point:
“I just get one vote, I’m just one member of council,” the mayor said. “I don’t consider myself special.” - Don Peat, Good Gravy blog
“On that day,” says Ruby, “you understood the simple principle is that if the report is about Rob Ford, [you can't particpate.]”If you looked up "facepalm" in the encyclopaedia, I expect that what you just did after reading that exchange would appear there in picture form. And that really is the crux of the matter. Is Ford the consummate smarmy politician? Is he really the victim of bad advice or no advice at all? Or is he really operating at a Grade Three level of understanding? In a fine article in the Metro (which is a rarity for that paper, let me tell you), Matt Elliott asserts that Ford's defence is "laziness and incompetence" and he appears to be exactly right. Another excellent summary of yesterday's proceedings is offered by John Lorinc of Spacing magazine, in which he describes a "pattern of almost pathological inattentiveness to the more nuanced details of the job of representing the interests of public." A friend of mine posted on Facebook that, "The frightening thing is, if he gets let off the hook, it will set a precedent for the willful ignorance defence that he is using - meaning it's okay to break the law if you go out of your way never to learn or understand the law in the first place." I fear he may well be right in this case; the verdict at the end of this trial -- whenever it is finally delivered -- will be a very important one indeed, and not just to Rob Ford or the people of Toronto. Meanwhile, the trial has resumed today and I am sure there will be a great deal more idiotic statements from hizzoner before this day is through. I'll try to bring as many of them as I can to you in the next blog post.
“I heard you speak the words,” Ruby continues. “Did you understand what you said?”
“No,” Ford says. - Steve Kupferman, The Torontoist Live Blog
It feels uncomfortable in the courtroom. The mayor does not seem to understand many of the questions - Robyn Doolittle, Toronto Star