2006 election battle continues in court
Arguments heard on attempt to force audit of Mayor Jackson’s election financing
The legal battle in the now-infamous 2006 mayoral war is far from over.
The latest judicial battle won’t be settled until Ontario Justice Lucia Favret decides in January whether to order a compliance audit into Mayor Linda Jackson’s campaign finances.
Favret heard arguments Friday in her Newmarket courtroom in the appeal filed by Quintino Mastroguiseppe and Gino Ruffolo, the Vaughan residents who had originally asked council for the audit in May.
The two allege that Jackson broke the financial rules contained in the Municipal Elections Act more than 20 times by, among other things, accepting donations from closely associated businesses that total more than the allowed $750 per individual or company.
At its May 22 meeting, council put off making any decision on the audit request until after Feb. 29, the latest the mayor can file any supplementary financial statements under the elections act. It was after the vote to delay that Mastroguiseppe and Ruffolo filed their appeal.
Both city lawyer George Rust-D’Eye and Jackson’s attorney, Andrew Jeanrie, argued the audit application was premature, and therefore invalid.
“The city’s position simply is that … the application was incorrectly brought,” argued Rust-D’Eye, adding the elections act states the audit request must come within 90 days after the final filing date.
“Clearly this application was not filed in accordance with the act,” he said. “The council had no obligation to do anything with this.”
Jeanrie went further, saying the city had neither an obligation nor the legal authority to act. Council could not vote on an audit request that legally did not exist, he argued.
But Favret questioned both lawyers on why, if the application was not valid, council had voted to defer it. She also asked why council had not immediately rejected the request as premature.
“It may be that the city should simply have dismissed it,” Rust-D’Eye replied. “This is a council and not a group of lawyers.”
Eric Gillespie, the lawyer representing Mastroguiseppe and Ruffolo, argued the elections act does not limit someone’s ability to ask for a financial audit to a 90-day window. Instead, he posited, the act allows audit applications from the beginning of a campaign until 90 days after the final filing date.
Gillespie also referenced a similar case in which he was successful in acquiring a court-ordered audit. That case delved into the 2003 election finances of Larry Di Ianni, Hamilton’s former mayor.
Though Di Ianni did plead guilty to six charges of donation irregularities, Gillespie argued that the court battle and audit took too long to complete.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” he told the court, poetically urging Favret to act quickly.
Favret’s decision to order or deny the audit, or to force Vaughan council to make the decision, is expected Jan. 22.
Vaughan Today Online: December 24, 2007 [link]