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Judge rules against Jackson

Compliance audit ordered into mayor’s 2006 campaign finances as council’s decision overruled by court

VICTORS: Quintino Mastroguiseppe and Gino Ruffolo successfully appealed to an Ontario civil court -- forcing the city to appoint an audit of the campaign funding of Mayor Linda Jackson, shown here during Tuesday's council meeting. Photo by staff/Vaughan Today

Mayor Linda Jackson’s political fortunes suffered another major setback in the seemingly endless 2006 mayoral war — she is now facing a court-ordered audit of her campaign finances.

Ontario Justice Lucia Favret ordered the audit Tuesday, granting Quintino Mastroguiseppe’s and Gino Ruffolo’s appeal of a May city council vote to postpone making any decision on their original audit request.

“We’re very pleased with the decision,” Ruffolo said outside the courtroom. “Hopefully it will bear some fruit.”

Mastroguiseppe and Ruffolo allege Jackson contravened the Municipal Elections Act more than 20 times. The value of those alleged transgressions totals more than $30,000.

Jackson, who was not in court for the decision, said she was surprised that the judge ordered an audit without having seen her final financial statements, which she has not filed yet.

[Mayor Linda Jackson] However, “I certainly welcome an audit,” she said following Tuesday’s council meeting.

Her lawyer echoed her comments.

“Linda’s got nothing to hide, so we haven’t been concerned about there being an audit,” said attorney Andrew Jeanrie Tuesday afternoon.

“In fact, we always expected there would be an audit, but ordered by council at the appropriate time,” he added.

Mastroguiseppe, mirroring Ruffolo’s victorious tone, said Jackson should be worried about what an audit will uncover.

“(Favret’s decision took) a little bit too long for my liking, but justice will be served — swiftly, hopefully,” he said outside the courtroom. “I’m assuming an audit will find more stuff than we could find.”

At a previous court appearance on Dec. 14, both city lawyer George Rust-D’Eye and Jeanrie argued the audit application was premature, and therefore invalid. Because of that, the two lawyers maintained, council did nothing wrong in deferring its decision.

Eric Gillespie, lawyer for Mastroguiseppe and Ruffolo, argued that council erred in not making a decision.

Favret agreed with Gillespie, saying Tuesday that council had overstepped its jurisdiction by not granting or denying the original audit request.

“This is a rare but significant event,” Gillespie said in a statement released Tuesday.

In his statement, Gillespie 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.

Di Ianni pled guilty to six charges of donation irregularities, and was not re-elected, proving, Gillespie said, “these audits can lead to very serious repercussions.”

Betraying no fear of what an auditor might find, Jeanrie said he hopes that the process is conducted quickly.

“This isn’t the mayor of Toronto’s books, which would be huge and very complex,” he said. “This should be reasonably simple.”

— with files from Alexis Dobranowski

Vaughan Today
Online: February 21, 2008 [link]