In the news this week is the developing “circus” surrounding the exploits of Mayor Rob Ford. It has been reported that he has admitted to using illegal drugs, among other things.
Setting aside the “reality show” type reporting of these events, we find that this situation boils down to only one question. What, if any, sanctions should be assessed in this case, and should the job performance and popularity of this man be taken into account?
Some are saying that these drugs should not be illegal in the first place, and therefore the law which Mayor Ford violated was unjust. This, indeed, may well be a valid point, but it is currently only an opinion, as the law does exist, and the executives in government are supposedly required to enforce it until such time as it is repealed.
The Mayor’s own brother made the argument that, in essence, nobody should seek to punish the Mayor, as all people are guilty of wrongdoing at some point in their lives, and only a person free of guilt should be allowed to ask for sanctions. If we accept this as a guideline for society, then we must discard all laws and the attempts to enforce them, because none of us are totally free from guilt, and, therefore, there is no one in existence capable of justly accusing another of wrongdoing, or of enforcing a law.
Another common argument used in support of the Mayor is the premise that what a person does in their private lives should not be used as a reason to discipline someone at their job. This is a very strong point, and in most cases should be stringently applied. Failure to apply this principle in most jobs would certainly give employers the authority to direct their employees private lives arbitrarily, using loss of income as a means of coercion.
This last point, however, contains an exception. The accused in this circumstance is a mayor. As a mayor, he is the chief executive in the city, and the top officer in charge of law enforcement in his jurisdiction. Beyond being accused, he freely admitted to engaging in an illegal act, while not in a state of duress. This form of confession should reasonably be held on par with a conviction in a court.
Any public official tasked with the enforcement of laws should without question be expected to abide by those laws themselves, and voluntarily accept the sanctions in their own lives for failure to comply as they would require of anyone else. We can not hold the past against our officials, but they must be required without fail to abide fully with the laws that they are expected to enforce while in office. Failure to do so should be an indisputable reason for removal from office.
One remaining option is available to legitimately allow an official to remain in office in the face of an admitted violation of a law. This is in the case of an antiquated or unjust law which is enforced on NO ONE. The only viable argument which I can see for the failure to remove this mayor from his position would be if the city could demonstrate that it charges absolutely nobody with a crime for the violation of the law which Mayor Ford admittedly violated himself. If the city has cited anyone at all for violating this law, then Mayor Ford must step down or be removed from office, and be charged at a minimum with the average severity at which the ordinary person would be charged. Failure to hold politicians to this standard simply creates an elite class of politicians who rule with a double standard, with one set of rules for themselves and their friends, and another set for the rest of us.
In summation, the only way that Mayor Ford should be allowed to remain in office is in the event that he can conclusively demonstrate that the law which he admittedly violated has never, during his tenure, been enforced on any other individual in the jurisdiction for which he is responsible.
As a post script, to those who would seek to compare this situation to the events surrounding the impeachment of President Clinton, I present the following, significant, differences: President Clinton was accused of no violation of a law which would have been enforced on the average person, he was accused of lying to the American people, his employers. The people had the opportunity to sanction President Clinton for this, and chose not to. These two cases are not at all on the same level, and it is not rational or legitimate to use one to resolve the other.