Mayoral front-runner Rob Ford has been ordered to repay thousands of dollars in donations he solicited improperly for his football charity.

City council quietly approved the recommendation from the city’s integrity commissioner yesterday morning. The Etobicoke councillor broke city rules when he used office letterhead to seek funds for the Rob Ford Football Foundation, commissioner Janet Leiper concluded after a four-month investigation.

Calling it “improper use of influence,” Leiper ruled Ford should reimburse the lobbyists and corporate donors. City records show Ford has raised a total of $37,294.68, although less than half of that is affected by yesterday’s ruling.

By the time Leiper launched her investigation in May, Ford had already been warned twice — last December and again in February — about using city materials to solicit donations for his private charity.

Councillors approved the report without opening the issue for debate, “because we didn’t want to let Rob give a big speech about helping kids,” said one councillor.

“It’s not about the kids. He broke rules, which are in place for good reason.”