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Jackson — stay put or go?

THE CITY'S FUTURE COUNCIL? After Mayor Linda Jackson, Regional Councillor Joyce Frustaglio and Councillor Bernie DiVona declared conflicts of interest, a depleted council gathered in chambers last week to discuss Jackson's campaign finances. Photo by Corey Lewis/Vaughan Today

He’s not saying the mayor should quit.

But, Councillor Alan Shefman says, “if I was in her position, if that was me, I would resign.”

A recent audit report into Mayor Linda Jackson’s 2006 municipal election finances and council’s subsequent move to hire an independent prosecutor to pursue possible charges against her has gotten some councillors speaking in hypotheticals while their constituents express their concerns.

The report’s authors, auditors Ken Froese and Glen R. Davison, found several apparent contraventions of the Municipal Elections Act, including campaign overspending of more than $12,000, for which Jackson could be removed from office if convicted.

“We’re getting calls from people asking for her resignation,” Shefman said. “Some people have expressed their embarrassment that she hasn’t resigned in light of the very serious potential charges and the very serious allegations.

“I haven’t heard anything else but that.”

Unlike Shefman, Councillor Sandra Yeung Racco said last week she hasn’t received many calls from constituents, but those who have spoken to her say Jackson should temporarily step aside until the controversy passes.

“If I found myself in a position such as this, I probably would feel compelled myself to take a leave of absence, step down, until the whole investigation is complete,” Racco said last week. “That’s my personal opinion on myself. I don’t want to suggest to the mayor or to anyone what I feel the mayor should do.”

Last Tuesday, Timothy Wilkin, a municipal lawyer from Kingston, Ont., was appointed the task of determining what legal action to take. It’s now up to him what charges to pursue and what penalties to seek from the court.

“Some of (my constituents) are saying, ‘We’re pleased with the decision’,” Reginal Councillor Joyce Frustaglio said last week. “Some of them are saying, ‘It’s unfortunate that members of council seem to be plagued with ongoing controversy’.

“It breaks my heart. It really does.”

Frustaglio, who by virtue of winning the most votes in the regional councillor race often fills in for the mayor, is facing her own campaign finance audit.

“It’s not always the best place to be, to be in politics, especially when you’re expected to be beyond perfect,” she said. “ To be under such a very thick microscope continually cannot be easy for anyone.

“I am certain and I would only hope that the mayor, in her wisdom when the time comes, will do the right thing, whatever that is.”

Despite the controversy distracting from the work of governing Vaughan, Shefman, Racco and Frustaglio each pointed to council’s accomplishments.

“The reality is, this has been an extremely disturbed and disturbing term,” Shefman said. “I mean literally from the day of the election, there’s been extraordinary controversy, a huge amount of antagonistic sorts of situations taking place, many court cases.

“In the face of that, I think it’s absolutely critical to recognize the incredible things that this council has done, the members of council have done, in the face of all that adversity.”

Vaughan Today
Online: July 3, 2008 [link]