DiVona blasts tactics of audit-seeking trio
Councillor Bernie DiVona squared off last week against three Vaughan residents seeking an audit into his 2006 campaign finances over what he called “dirty” and “disgusting” legal and political tactics.
Ontario Justice V.A. Lampkin was set to hear arguments in Newmarket court Tuesday in the appeal filed by Richard Lorello, Carlo DeFrancesca and Robert Zuccarini. Vaughan city council denied their original request for an audit in June.
Their appeal of council’s decision named only the City of Vaughan, prompting DiVona to ask Lampkin for intervener status, which essentially allows him to present evidence that refutes the appellants’ claims.
DiVona says he had asked the appellants early in the appeal process to allow him to act as an intervener, but did not receive their response until last month.
“They waited at the 11th hour to play a dirty legal trick,” DiVona said outside the courtroom, decrying the tactics used by the appellants. “They’re now using court technicalities to play politics.
“And they’re trying to bad name the City of Vaughan council’s decision and use me as a scapegoat for their own political ends. I find it disgusting.”
After hearing DiVona’s plea for inclusion, Lampkin granted DiVona an adjournment and leave to apply for intervener status on the condition that the Ward 3 councillor compensate the two appellant lawyers $2,000 each for their time in court.
“I understand, your honour,” DiVona replied. “Whatever is fair, I’m fully prepared to accept.”
George Rust-D’Eye, the city’s lawyer, did not ask for compensation for his time.
Outside the courtroom, DeFrancesca and Zuccarini accused DiVona of employing a “delay tactic” and wasting public money.
“And the worst of it is that, from what I understand, the other side isn’t even concerned about cost to the city,” DeFrancesca said. “It’s an unnecessary cost. I mean, did you hear Mr. Rust-D’Eye ask for any compensation awarded to the taxpayers?”
DiVona, who recently filed a libel suit against the three appellants, dismissed the charge of wasting public dollars, instead turning DeFrancesca’s own argument against him.
“This actually is being paid for by the insurance company, so it doesn’t affect our property taxes,” DiVona said. “The only time it’ll affect the taxpayers is if a compliance audit gets ordered.
“So actually, they are hypocrites because them asking for a compliance audit is asking for the taxpayers to pay up to $60,000 for a compliance audit.”
In a phone interview after the hearing, DeFrancesca rhetorically asked why, “if he has nothing to hide”, is DiVona continuing to fight the audit.
“An audit, like any audit, if you haven’t really done anything wrong, what’s the problem?” he added.
DiVona, however, was adamant that he had done nothing wrong and that council’s decision to deny the original audit request was the correct one.
“It’s my opinion the evidence is so clear, so concise, so extensive, it’s embarrassing for anyone to make an allegation against the City of Vaughan and myself,” he said.
DiVona alleged that Lorello, DeFrancesca and Zuccarini had targeted him for political reasons.
“Four individuals made an allegation against me,” he said. “They retaliated against my financial statements because they did not want a compliance audit of their candidate, and their candidate is Mayor (Linda) Jackson.
“They’re tying us together, and with the greatest sense of respect, we are completely independent, there should be no relationship, and everyone should be heard on their own merit.”
DiVona now has until March 14 to file an application for intervener status. The court is set to consider the application and determine a new date for the appeal to continue on March 20.
Vaughan Today Online: February 10, 2008 [link]