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Audit war reflects Tory rift

Riding association grudges seen as playing out in court and city hall battles

DAY IN COURT: Quintino Mastroguiseppe and Gino Ruffolo launched a successful legal action to force an audit of Mayor Linda Jackson's campaign finances. Photo by Philip Alves/Vaughan Today

If there’s one thread connecting the players in Vaughan’s audit-seeking duels that continue to drag out the 2006 election war, it may be the local Conservative riding association.

On one side of the line drawn in the mud stand Quintino Mastroguiseppe and Carrie Liddy. Facing them across no man’s land are Mario Campese, Richard Lorello, Robert Zuccarini and Raymond Plouffe.

Each is either a current or former executive or director of the Tory organization.

Campese, Mayor Linda Jackson’s husband and current first vice-president of the riding association, says actions against the mayor are the result of a rift within the association.

“Mastroguiseppe, as far as I’m concerned, is all about sour grapes,” Campese said recently from his Kleinburg office. “It’s about him losing his position here with the riding association.

“I can’t see any other reason.”

Mastroguiseppe, who along with Gino Ruffolo was successful in obtaining two audits into the mayor’s campaign finances, disagreed.

“There’s no sour grapes there,” he said Tuesday. “I would go after (Regional Councillor) Mario Ferri. I would go after (Regional Councillor) Joyce Frustaglio. I would go after any candidate if I saw something (wrong).”

The audit-request battle began last year when Mastroguiseppe and Ruffolo (whose name has not been associated with the Conservative riding association) asked councillors to appoint an auditor into Jackson’s first campaign financial statement.

Council refused to make a decision, prompting the pair to file an appeal in court. They obtained a court-ordered audit into the mayor’s books.

Ruffolo was a mayoral candidate in 2006, though he withdrew his name from the ballot and threw his support to Jackson.

Mastroguiseppe also ran in the municipal election, having unsuccessfully sought a regional councillor’s chair. He was also once president of the Vaughan Conservative riding association.

Weeks after the initial request into Jackson’s campaign finances, Lorello, Zuccarini and Carlo DeFrancesca (whose name is not linked to the association) asked council for a similar audit into Councillor Bernie DiVona’s books. Council declined and the trio appealed.

Lorello is today the Conservative candidate for Vaughan, and Zuccarini is a director of the riding association.

DiVona says Lorello, DeFrancesca and Zuccarini targeted him for political reasons.

“Individuals made an allegation against me,” DiVona said outside of the court after a February appearance. “They retaliated against my financial statements because they did not want a compliance audit of their candidate, and their candidate is Mayor Jackson.”

Liddy, a former director of the riding association and a DiVona supporter, agreed with him the audit request is politically motivated.

“They think he’s the weakest link,” she said this week. “They’re barking up the wrong tree.”

Arguments in that appeal are set to resume in September.

The most recent audit request seeks to delve into former-mayor Michael DiBiase’s campaign finances.

Plouffe, a Vaughan resident and a director of the riding association, asked council on March 25 to appoint an auditor into DiBiase’s final campaign statement.

The move came on the same day as a second audit request into Jackson’s books brought to council by Ruffolo and Mastroguiseppe.

Ruffolo and Mastroguiseppe counsel Eric Gillespie, who has been adept at obtaining audits, was hired by DiBiase to help shield him from the allegations levelled at him by Plouffe.

Gillespie refused to speculate why any of these audits has been requested.

“As a lawyer, to be blunt, the motives really are irrelevant,” he said recently by phone. “There’s all kinds of fascinating speculation that can go on, I suppose.”

Vaughan Today
Online: April 10, 2008 [link]