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The man who brought down Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Complainant Paul Magder, centre, and lawyer Clayton Ruby, right, speak at a news conference after a judge found Mayor Rob Ford guilty of breaching a conflict of interest law on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012. Ford has been ordered removed from office in 14 days.

Matthew Sherwood/The Globe and Mail

Paul Magder has an unassuming personality, a fringe of grey hair and a soft voice. Save for volunteering on a couple of campaigns for school board trustees, he says he's had little experience in the world of Toronto municipal politics.

But this slender, quiet man with no public profile to speak of may go down in history as someone who suddenly changed the course of the city.

Mr. Magder is the citizen who filed the conflict-of-interest complaint that could see the end of Mayor Rob Ford's time as mayor.

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Mr. Magder has been a family friend of Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, a left-wing former member of the city's library board, since the latter was a child. He suggested that it was because of Mr. Chaleff-Freudenthaler – who has himself launched a legal proceeding to get an audit of Mr. Ford's campaign donations – that he decided to bring the conflict-of-interest complaint forward.

Even at a news conference that followed the court ruling that ordered the mayor out of office, Mr. Magder was subdued, and seemed uncomfortable in the spotlight.

"This is a sad day for Torontonians," he said, reading from a prepared statement as lawyer Clayton Ruby stood next to him. "It's sad because we spent so much time and money on this matter, instead of nurturing our city and growing it into a wonderful place to live."

In a brief scrum with reporters afterward, he revealed a few details about himself: He works as a manager at an electronics manufacturing lab in Mississauga (he had to go to work later in the day); he volunteered on the campaign of one school board candidate in 1994, and on another – the unsuccessful bid of Mr. Chaleff-Freudenthaler in 2010.

His involvement in politics, otherwise, has been peripheral.

"I've been on marches and whatever, like the normal things that people do in their lives," he said. "I'm aware, I read the paper."

And it was after reading about Mr. Ford's conflict of interest – when he failed to recuse himself from a council vote on his using his office to solicit donations to his football foundation – that Mr. Magder decided something had to be done, he said.

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Mr. Ruby, a high-profile human rights lawyer, took the case on.

Mr. Magder said little else Monday. As a crowd of reporters gathered around the unlikely giant-slayer, Mr. Ruby swooped in and took over the scrum. After answering a few more questions, he called the proceedings to a close.

"Come with me," he said, and whisked Mr. Magder away.

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About the Author
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

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