UPDATE 3-Toronto's combative mayor ordered to leave office

Claire Sibonney
Reuters Middle East

* Mayor has 2 weeks to leave office, says he will appeal

* Ford not barred from running for mayor in new elections

* Ford one of several Canadian city mayors in trouble

(Updates with details, comments from Ford, legal expert and

political analyst)

TORONTO, Nov 26 (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.

Ford is also fighting a C$6 million ($6 million) libel court

case over comments he made about corruption at city hall during

his 2010 campaign for mayor, and his campaign finances are being

audited. The penalty in the audit case could also include

removal from office.

"Today's decision shows that when you break the rules,

there's a price to pay," said prominent Canadian defense lawyer

Clayton Ruby, who argued the case against Ford.


The mayor has also grabbed headlines for reading while

driving on a city expressway, for calling the police when a

comedian tried to film a segment for a popular TV show outside

his home, and for an angry confrontation outside his home with a

city hall reporter for Toronto's biggest newspaper.

As well, he faced intense scrutiny after media reports that

city resources were being used to help administer the

high-school football team he coaches.

The conflict-of-interest saga began in 2010 when Ford, then

a city councillor, used city letterhead to solicit donations for

his private football charity for underprivileged children.

Toronto's integrity commissioner ordered Ford to repay the

C$3,150 the charity received from lobbyists and companies that

do business with the city, as those donations breached code of

conduct rules.

Ford refused to repay the money, and in February 2012 he

took part in a city council debate on the matter and then voted

in favor of removing the sanctions against him.

He pleaded not guilty in September, stating that he believed

there was no conflict of interest as there was no financial

benefit for the city.

"If it benefits the city and it benefits a member of

council, then you have a conflict, and this did not benefit the

city at all," Ford said. "This was a personal issue about my

foundation and it had nothing to do with the city."

John Mascarin, lawyer and municipal law expert at law firm

Aird and Berlis LLP, said he did not believe Ford would win his

appeal, or be eligible to run in a by-election.

The process could take several months until appeals are

concluded, Mascarin said, and Ford will remain in office "with a

target on his back because he knows he's gone".

($1=$0.99 Canadian)

(Additional reporting by Julie Gordon and Cameron French;

Editing by Janet Guttsman, Leslie Gevirtz, Russ Blinch and Peter


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