Toronto Mayor Rob Ford campaign audit may be released Friday


Toronto Mayor Rob Ford campaign audit may be released Friday
Mayor Rob Ford’s 2010 campaign spending was challenged by two residents, Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler and Max Reed.
By: Daniel Dale Urban Affairs Reporter, Published on Thu Jan 31 2013
Mayor Rob Ford celebrated a legal victory last Friday. He may find himself with new legal problems this Friday.
A forensic audit of his campaign financial practices will be released imminently, auditor Bruce Armstrong said on Thursday — possibly Friday, possibly early next week. Armstrong had said earlier that it would be released by the end of January.

“The anticipation is that it’ll be out this week,” Armstrong said. “It’s going to be read by a lot of people; we want to make sure that — haste makes waste.”
If Armstrong’s audit identifies “apparent contraventions” of the Municipal Elections Act, the city’s three-person compliance audit committee will decide whether to hire a special prosecutor to consider non-criminal charges against Ford. The prosecutor would likely have the power to decide which alleged breaches to pursue and which to discard.
“While a compliance auditor might perceive there to be ‘apparent contraventions,’ which is the language in the Municipal Elections Act, that doesn’t mean there automatically has been an offence beyond a reasonable doubt that can be proved in court. And that’s the gap that has to be bridged,” said Tim Wilkin, a Kingston-based lawyer who served as a special prosecutor in Vaughan, Ottawa, and Hamilton.
Removal from office is one of the possible penalties, but no Ontario politician in recent memory has been punished severely for violations uncovered by a campaign audit.
In fact, Wilkin is aware of only one audit-related conviction of a sitting politician: the one he obtained in Hamilton. When then-mayor Larry Di Ianni pleaded guilty to six of 41 charges in 2006, he agreed to make a $4,500donation to charity and to write an essay in Municipal World magazine.
“The penalties can be quite onerous. But I’m not aware of any person in Ontario who has been prosecuted and suffered the most significant penalties that are contemplated by the act,” Wilkin said.
Regardless of the eventual outcome, election-related charges would cast another shadow over Ford’s tumultuous mayoralty. Any court case could well continue into the 2014 campaign; Wilkin said it can take four to six months just for the special prosecutor to make a decision on laying charges.
The members of the compliance audit committee are chair Douglas Colbourne, a chartered accountant and former chair of the Ontario Municipal Board; John Hollins, former chief electoral officer for Elections Ontario; and Virginia MacLean, a municipal lawyer based in Oakville.
The complaint against Ford was filed in 2011 by two men who were also involved in bringing the 2012 conflict of interest case against him: Max Reed, a lawyer, and Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, a left-leaning activist and former vice-chair of the library board. They now lead a group called Fair Elections Toronto, which filed additional challenges to the campaign spending of Councillor Doug Ford and other allies of the mayor.
Doug Ford, who has called Chaleff-Freudenthaler a “little snake,” has complained that the efforts of his group are politically motivated. Chaleff-Freudenthaler, who denies that accusation, says he is merely trying to ensure that politicians play by the rules.
Reed and Chaleff-Freudenthaler believe Ford’s 2010 campaign exceeded the $1.3 million spending limit by at least $156,384. They also allege that Ford broke the law by allowing a family company to pay about $78,000 in early-campaign expenses. The campaign paid the company back a year later, without interest; all campaign loans must come from “recognized” lenders, all expenses must be paid directly by a campaign, and corporate donations are prohibited.
In his last official statement on the audit, in April, Ford did not say that he had complied with the law. Rather, he said, “Everything during the campaign was done in good faith with the intention of complying fully with election law.”
Correction: This article was edited from a previous version that mistakenly said no Ontario politician has ever been punished severely for breaking elections law.
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