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Toronto Mayor Ford must testify in conflict-of-interest case

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford speaks at a press conference following a meeting with Premier Dalton McGuinty to discuss the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy. The mayor says he is committed to stamping out gun violence in the city.

Michelle Siu/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford must testify in open court to answer allegations he broke conflict-of-interest rules when he voted on an issue related to his football foundation, a judge has ruled.

The stakes couldn't be higher: Mr. Ford's job will be on the line when he takes the stand on the first day of a hearing scheduled to begin Sept. 5.

Removal from office is the automatic penalty if Mr. Ford is found guilty of breaching the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. The case is being argued by prominent lawyer Clayton Ruby on behalf of Toronto resident Paul Magder.

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Mr. Justice Charles Hackland, the Ottawa judge overseeing the case, on Friday ordered Mr. Ford to testify, according to a news release from Mr. Ruby's firm.

"Mayor Ford had previously filed an affidavit and been cross-examined outside of court. Mr. Magder subsequently brought a motion seeking an order requiring Mayor Ford to testify in open court because Mayor Ford's credibility is in issue in this case," the news release says.

The legal drama that will unfold in a Toronto courtroom next month stems from a decision Mr. Ford made on the council floor in February.

He chose to speak about and vote on a report from the city's integrity commissioner that found Mr. Ford had refused to repay $3,150 in questionable donations to his personal football charity, despite council ordering him to do so in August 2010 when he was still a councillor.

The mayor had ignored six reminders to pay back the cash.

The original report found Mr. Ford improperly used a staff member's time and his councillor letterhead to solicit donations for the Rob Ford Football Foundation, which raises money to buy equipment for underprivileged high schools.

The $3,150 in donations came from lobbyists and corporations doing business with the city.

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When Mr. Ford refused to pay, the issue landed back at council in February of this year.

Council voted to drop the sanction. Rather than recuse himself, Mr. Ford spoke to this issue and voted to let himself off the hook.

The mayor's office said Friday that Mr. Ford is eager to testify.

"Mayor Rob Ford is proud of the work that he does with disadvantaged youth across the City of Toronto. The Mayor is looking forward to his day in court," George Christopoulos, the mayor's press secretary, said in a statement.

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Health reporter

Kelly Grant is a health reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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