Friday, September 7, 2012

RoFo: The Trial Concludes


Keep laughing, Chuckles


Today's blog post will be a lot shorter than yesterday's because, while Rob Ford's Conflict of Interest trial concluded yesterday, Ford himself didn't say anything inordinately stupid in the courtroom. But there's a good reason for that: Ford did not take the stand yesterday.

Instead, we were treated to closing arguements from the two lawyers, Alan Lenczner, who represents Ford, and Clayton Ruby, who represents the private citizen who brought this case to court, Paul Magder. This still took an entire day in court, but I'd wager it felt a lot shorter than the previous day to everyone in attendance.

Again today I followed as much as I could through the live blogs such as the one by the Torontoist, and Twitter feeds such as by the indefatigable Don Peat, filling in the gaps by following the discussion hash tag #FordCourt, also on Twitter. Ruby went first because Lenczner needed time to review some "new case law and facta" given to him by Ruby that morning. The next few hours, until 3 p.m. with a break for lunch and a couple of recesses, Ruby and Nader Hasan, a partner in his firm, held the floor and spent much of that time reiterating just how muddled and confusing Ford's testimony from the day before truly was. Some of the more "on-point" quotes from the prosecutors:
“He has never explained the basis for his peculiar view of the law. My submission is that it is not a believable assertion because it is made by someone who has a 12 year tenure on city council.”

“That is not someone who has made an error. That is someone who is doing deliberately what he believes is right. It is not an error of judgment to be reckless identifying conflicts… it is not a good faith error. He is deliberately not doing what any reasonable person would do.”

“It is reckless to proceed in ignorance all of his 12 years on council. If you swear to uphold an Act and you don’t even read it, you are simply ensuring that you will breach it.”

“Ignorance of the law is not an error in judgment.”

After they were done, Lenczner began to summarize his case, which seems to mainly be that: in the first place, council should not have been allowed to impose a financial penalty on Ford; in the second place, Ford actually didn't break any Municipal Conflict of Issue Act rules; and, in the third place, if he did anything wrong it was inadvertent and an "error in judgment". The judge, for his part, didn't seem to be buying into any of these arguments very strongly, with comments such as, “I might say...that he has in those circumstances, a duty to go out and inform himself...I don’t think it’s a proposition that’s too far out there," and "“I think your client made that part of it [that he was influenced by the amount of the fine] crystal clear.” This gives me a little hope that something useful will come out of this case, although likely not an outright unseating of the worst mayor of Toronto in my lifetime, but there are some other issues that I find very troubling about the late-afternoon discussions.

Chief among these issues is this: in his summation on Thursday, Lenczner kept talking about how it would be unfair to forbid a councillor (at any level) to speak on his or her own behalf if the matter at hand was directly concerning him or her. I don't know why this is even relevant. Ford didn't only speak on his behalf -- and, for the record, I think that might actually be ok, similar to being allowed to testify on your own behalf in court -- but he voted on the matter which directly concerned his personal bank account -- which is not ok, because a defendant is not allowed to vote on the jury considering his case.

I don't really care about any of the rest of what went on last February or in 2010, the crux of the matter is that the mayor of Toronto voted in favour of overturning a penalty that he was being forced to pay and which would affect nobody else but Rob Ford. How that even needs to be discussed, how that isn't the textbook definition of "Conflict of Interest" no matter what any of the "guidebooks" might say about specific matters before council, is utterly beyond me. This should be an open and shut case, in my opinion. All this talk about whether he had the right to speak on his own behalf, or whether the money he solicited benefited Ford in any way, or whether council had a right to demand he repay the money, all of that is completely irrelevant to what should be the matter at hand: Rob Ford, in his capacity as mayor, took part in a council vote to determine whether he, Rob Ford, would have to spend $3150 of his own money after previously running afoul of the Integrity Commissioner. The outcome of that vote directly benefited Rob Ford in a "pecuniary" manner and he should never have taken part. Period. The reasons why don't matter a lick. And that is the "Conflict of Interest", whether our semi-literate mayor understands it or not. If he had an issue with the fine that was levied or even the whole matter of the original Conflict of Interest regarding the donations then there were other arenas for that fight.

As Matt Gurney summarizes quite well in his National Post column, Rob Ford's only defence is "incompetence" and he's playing that card to the fullest. Now the judge has to decide if that's a valid legal defence. He probably shouldn't lose his job over this, but I don't know what a fair outcome truly is. I think that, if we're stupid enough to vote this man into the office of mayor with his track record (I mean, none of what's gone on the past year and a half is a surprise to anyone with any sense at all), then we should be stuck with him for the full term. If he leaves now, in this manner, he will become a martyr and the great unwashed would rise up and vote for someone potentially even worse in the next election. Like Doug Ford. Or *shudder* Giorgio Mammoliti. I can't even.

In the meantime, the Ford Follies will continue. I'd bet about, oh, $3,150 on it.

By the way, I don't think it was any coincidence that last night, after I spent the better part of two days following that insipid trial online, I relaxed by turning on TCM and watching a collection of Max Sennett slapstick comedies, many of which featured Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. Oh, and one Laurel and Hardy short entitled -- I kid you not -- "Laughing Gravy". Now that was a bit eerie.

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