How much football money did Rob Ford’s foundation really raise?
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On a video screen in the courtroom at Rob Ford’s conflict-of-interest case Wednesday, the mayor delivered an impassioned speech to his fellow councillors recorded on Feb. 7 about the good his football foundation has done for kids.
“There are so many stories about these kids that came out of these football programs that bring tears to your eyes. They get an education, they stay in school, the scholarships, they’re playing professional football now. If it wasn’t for this foundation these kids would not have had a chance,” Ford said. “I’ve fundraised probably close to $100,000 over the past few years.”
Lawyer Clayton Ruby later grilled Ford on his claim that the foundation had fundraised and given out $100,000 — a claim that he also put on his 2010 campaign website. It remained on the site until the early stages of the legal case got underway this summer, according to testimony.
The Rob Ford Football Foundation isn’t a registered charity on its own, but a fund run by the Toronto Community Foundation, which administers hundreds of charitable funds in the city. Ruby questioned Ford about the Toronto Community Foundation reporting that the Rob Ford Football foundation had raised only $37,294 as of June 30, 2010.
“I don’t think she took into consideration my personal contribution, which is close to $50,000,” he said. “My foundation alone maybe wouldn’t be $100,000, but my own personal money, on top of what I fundraised, and up to date, would probably be over $100,000. Probably at the time I hadn’t fundraised $100,000, but I put in my own money.”
For example, he pays for the Don Bosco Eagles’ junior and senior football teams’ equipment himself, he said.
Under questioning from Ruby, Ford repeatedly said he’s unsure how much he’s raised for the foundation over the years.
“With all the money I fundraised and personally contributed to high school football over 17 years, I guarantee it’s over $100,000, easy,” said Ford.
Ruby said Ford gave a different explanation for the discrepancy when Ruby questioned him during a deposition in June about the $100,000 claim.
“That is inaccurate. I was probably saying it would be that much. It could total that much. It could in five or six, the years to come, I could easily fundraise that much money for it,” Ford said at the time.
Lawyer expects mayor to remain in office
Rob Ford will likely keep his job as mayor because the money at issue in his conflict-of-interest case just isn’t that much for a man of his means, according to a prominent lawyer.
In order for Ford to have violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, the money involved has to be enough that it can “reasonably be regarded as likely to influence the member,” according to James Morton, an Osgoode Hall Law School professor at York University and past president of the Ontario Bar Association.
“When you look at this man and you look at the kind of money he deals with in business, things like that, I would say probably the dollar amount is immaterial,” he said.
The money at issue in the mayor’s case is $3,150 donated to the Rob Ford Football Foundation, which the city’s integrity commissioner and lobbyist registrar identified as coming from people who were lobbying the city or their employers.
The conflict-of-interest allegation stems from Ford’s decision to vote to overturn a motion that demanded he repay the money.
Ford is a principal owner of a successful family business, Deco Labels & Tags.
Exactly how much money is material to the law depends on the person, says Morton. For example, Morton says he just attended a bail hearing where $200 was a hugely significant amount of money for someone who didn’t really have any money at all.
“Basically, I just don’t think this is going to succeed. Now, I’m not a fan of Mayor Ford, but that doesn’t make a difference. I just don’t think at the end of the day that he’ll be removed from office,” Morton said.
Ford supporter reluctant to spill details of charity event
Hal Spradling and his company held a fundraiser to help the Rob Ford Football Foundation buy some football uniforms for children — but all the controversy surrounding the mayor’s legal case has him a little wary.
“I don’t want to say anything that could come out in the wrong fashion, because I know there’s a trial today and a lot of people seem to be jealous of the mayor or trying to go after him on different fronts,” he said Wednesday.
But Spradling said the football foundation is a good cause, and he agrees with the mayor that helping children play football can help save lives by keeping them on the right track.
“We did it because we think it’s a good thing, a good thing to help young people,” Spradling said about the fundraiser he held with his company at the Cherry Street Restaurant on July 18.
Spradling said he’d read about the foundation and wanted to help.
“It was a donation affair which the mayor may or may not have attended,” he said. “We were trying to raise money for the organization and we had food and wine and beer and cigars.”
But the company’s website clearly shows that Ford attended the event and posed for photos with the attendees.
“He’s very dedicated and his very unselfish motivation is to help young people,” said Spradling. “The foundation has a history of helping young people in troubled areas.”