TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford has won his appeal and will continue to serve as mayor of Toronto.
Three judges from the Ontario Court of Appeal issued the ruling at 10:30 a.m. Friday, disagreeing with the original November decision by Justice Charles Hackland.
“In light of our conclusion that Decision CC 52.1 was a nullity because of the nature of the financial sanction it imposed, the appellant has not contravened s. 5(1) of the MCIA,” the decision read. “Therefore, the appeal is allowed, the judgment of the application judge is set aside and the application under the MCIA is dismissed.”
Hackland’s decision found Ford contravened municipal conflict of interest rules when he took part in a February 2012 vote at city hall that would rescind a previous motion that asked him to pay back $3,150 which lobbyists had donated to his football foundation.
The presiding judges in the appeal found that city council has no authority to request Ford pay back the money. Therefore, Ford had no financial interest in the controversial February 2012 vote, according to the decision.
Ford said at a press conference Friday that he was pleased at the court’s decision and repeatedly thanked his supporters.
“This has been a very, very humbling experience. I have an enormous respect for the judicial system and I’m very, very thankful for the decision it made today,” Ford said.
“I’m very proud to say that over the past two years, I’ve done exactly what I’ve said I was going to do. The job is not finished yet.”
Friday’s decision means that Ford – who is little more than half way done his term – can stay in office until the next election.
Related: What’s next for Mayor Rob Ford?
Clayton Ruby, the lawyer who represented Paul Magder in the case against Ford, said in a statement Friday that he will ask the Supreme Court of Canada for permission to appeal the case.
“The Court has let Rob Ford off on a technicality. We find that disappointing, particularly since the Court found that Mr. Paul Magder was right on the facts,” Ruby said in a statement. “We believe that there are serious errors of law in the judgment and we will ask the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal to that Court.”
Ruby said the decision is “troubling” suggesting it puts fundraising from lobbyists “beyond the reach of government oversight.”
Councillor James Pasternak said just a few minutes after the decision was released that it is a “big relief” for all city hall – not just the mayor.
“This whole saga has just zapped the oxygen out of city hall and it’s a big relief that we have a final decision. We can get on to the business of running the city and we don’t have the major judicial distraction that this has been,” Pasternak said.
While councillors were generally repeating that they are glad the drama was over, some – including the mayor – found opportunity to present a political message.
“I’m very proud to say that over the past two years, I’ve done exactly what I’ve said I was going to do,” Ford said. “I plan to spend the next six years on getting the job done.”
The mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, also took the opportunity to tout the successes of the administration.
“I can promise you that we’re going to continue working very, very hard at saving the taxpayers money and saving taxpayer’s money,” Councillor Ford said.
Councillor Adam Vaughan – often a vocal opponent of the mayor – told Global News Friday that the outcome of Ford’s appeal “doesn’t really matter.”
“What matters to me is whether or not the ward I represent and the city I love is moving forward and it’s not and that’s not just Rob Ford’s fault,” Vaughan said. “But we have work to do and I’m prepared to get back to work.”
Though Ford won his appeal, his legal challenges are not done. An audit of his campaign finances is expected to be released in February.