TORONTO | Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:56pm EST
(Reuters) - Toronto's Rob Ford, a magnet for personal and political controversy during his two years as mayor of Canada's largest city, was ordered out of office on Monday after a judge found him guilty of breaking conflict-of-interest laws.
Ontario Superior Court Judge Charles Hackland ruled Ford acted wrongly when he voted with city council to scrap a fine imposed on him for accepting donations to his football foundation from lobbyists.
The judge gave Ford 14 days to leave office but did not bar him from running for mayor in new elections.
"Maintaining the integrity of government is the mayor's most important job," Hackland said in his 24-page ruling.
"In view of the respondent's leadership role in ensuring integrity in municipal government, it is difficult to accept an error-in-judgment defense based essentially on a stubborn sense of entitlement," the judge wrote.
Ford told reporters at city hall he would appeal the decision. "I'm going to fight the ruling...I'm going to hold on to my job until they kick me out."
Elected nearly two years ago as mayor on a populist promise to "stop the gravy train," Ford's popularity has plunged after a string of battles with members of the city council, a defamation court case, and a series of personal blunders.
The outspoken mayor is fighting a C$6 million ($6.06 million) libel court case over comments he made about corruption at city hall during the 2010 campaign.
Ford grabbed headlines after he was seen reading while driving, for calling the police when a comedian tried to film a segment of a TV show outside his home, and for an angry confrontation with a city hall reporter.
The conflict-of-interest saga began in 2010 when Ford, then a city councillor, used city letterhead and envelopes to solicit donations for his private football charity for underprivileged children.
Toronto's integrity commissioner ordered Ford to repay the money received from lobbyists and companies that do business with the city, as those specific donations breached code of conduct rules.
Ford refused to repay the money, and in February 2012 he took part in a city council debate on the matter and then voted in favor of removing the sanctions against him.
He pleaded ignorance in court in September, stating that he believed there was no conflict of interest as there was no financial benefit for the city.
"If it benefits the city and it benefits a member of council, then you have a conflict, and this did not benefit the city at all. This was a personal issue about my foundation and it had nothing to do with the city," he argued. "So this, to me, is not a conflict of interest."