TORONTO - The embattled mayor of Canada's largest city can have another shot at his job if his appeal of a judge's ruling that ordered him from office over a conflict of interest violation fails and council calls a byelection to fill the vacancy.
The clarification by Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland came Friday amid confusion over his initial decision as to whether he had meant to bar Rob Ford from running until the next municipal election in 2014.
Hackland modified his decision to say there would be no "further disqualification from holding office" — beyond declaring the Toronto mayor's seat vacated.
In his decision Monday, Hackland booted Ford from office for taking part in a council vote on an issue in which he had a financial interest, a violation of provincial law.
Hackland said Ford could not run again for the "current term."
Some, such as the city's top lawyer and Clayton Ruby, who acted for the businessman who brought the action against the mayor, took that to mean Ford could not run until the end of the current council term in 2014.
However, Ford — known for his combative style — and his supporters argued his term would end with his expulsion from office — if his pending appeal fails — meaning he would be eligible to run in any byelection.
"To put it plainly," Ford's lawyer Alan Lenczner wrote Hackland Thursday, "If city council were to hold an election for mayor in 2013, we respectfully submit that (Ford) could present himself as a candidate."
In a duelling letter to Hackland, Ruby said he took Monday's decision to mean Ford could not run in a byelection, and the mayor could challenge that in court if he wanted.
Hackland's clarification Friday omits any reference to the "current term."
In a brief interview, Ruby refused to comment.
"There's an appeal pending, there's a stay pending, and it's just not appropriate to comment," Ruby said.
Next week, Divisional Court is expected to hear Ford's application for a stay of Hackland's judgment — which the justice put on hold for 14 days — until the appeal has been dealt with.
The full appeal is expected to be heard Jan. 7.
Ford spokesman George Christopoulos would not comment.
"There's also an appeal process that we're moving through," Christopoulos said.
Ford initially blamed his ouster on a conspiracy — saying left-wing politicians were out to get him — and vowed to fight "tooth and nail" to keep his job. A day later, he apologized only to those who disagreed with the way he had handled the conflict situation.
Coun. Joe Mihevc said he supports calling a byelection if Ford loses his appeal.
"I cannot see this council, frankly, re-appointing a mayor that was just turfed from office by the judiciary. I don't think that would be appropriate."
He said the decision has rocked the entire municipal government.
"Tensions are high here. We are all trying to keep the whole ship of state together here at city hall."