Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was cleared today to run again for mayor in a byelection, should one be held ahead of the 2014 municipal election.
Lawyers for Ford, who earlier this week was ordered out of office by Superior Court Justice Charles T. Hackland in a conflict of interest case, asked the judge to clarify his ruling to clear up confusion about whether the order bars him as a byelection candidate.
At issue was a sentence in paragraph 60 of the judge's original ruling that said: "I decline to impose any further disqualification from holding office beyond the current term."
Ford's lawyer wanted clarification on what was meant by "beyond the current term." The question that had observers confused was: Did the term end when the mayor gave up his seat to comply with the sanction, or did the judge mean the term of office as defined in the Municipal Act, which would mean a term ending in 2014?
On Friday, the judge responded by amending his previous ruling. He deleted the words "beyond the current term" from his original ruling.
That means Ford can seek the mayor's chair if the city opts to hold a byelection ahead of the 2014 municipal election. Council also has the option of appointing a mayor to serve until 2014.
Ford is also applying for a stay of judgment, which will be heard Wednesday. If successful, he would remain mayor until his appeal runs its course.
The ruling to vacate the seat, if a stay application is unsuccessful, would take effect Dec. 10. Ford's appeal of the ruling could be heard as early as Jan. 7.
No immediate comment from Ford
The complicated chain of events began to unfold on Monday morning.
Justice Hackland ruled that the mayor had violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act by speaking and participating in a council vote regarding a financial penalty he was ordered to pay after he was found to have violated council's code of conduct by soliciting donations to his football charity using city materials.
By law, Hackland could have barred Ford from running again for office for a period of up to seven years, but his ruling was clear that Ford could run in 2014.
Ford has said he will seek re-election at the earliest opportunity.
The mayor's press secretary said Ford will not be available to comment Friday.
Friday's decision will add to what has been a chaotic week at Toronto City Hall, with speculation stirring about who would seek the mayor's chair should Ford be ruled ineligible to run.
There was even speculation that Coun. Doug Ford would run if his brother was ruled ineligible.
The city's budget process got underway this week with heated debate and on Thursday night Rob and Doug Ford got into a yelling match with left-leaning Coun. Adam Vaughan.