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Councillors ‘appalled’ by Jackson

Mayor launches lawsuit against city, alleging council acted illegally in dealing with audit

CONTROVERSY: Regional Councillor Joyce Frustaglio, centre, and Councillor Alan Shefman, right, have spoken out against Mayor Linda Jackson's latest move. Jackson, left, says council acted illegally when dealing with an audit into her campaign finances.

Embattled Mayor Linda Jackson’s latest salvo in the controversy over her campaign finances has councillors seeing red and talking tough.

In a move that preempts charges being laid against her by city-retained prosecutor Timothy Wilkin, Jackson notified the city late last Friday afternoon she intends to fight council’s actions in court.

Regional Councillor Joyce Frustaglio says she was taken by surprise, and only found out after reading about it in a newspaper article over the Labour Day long weekend.

“For me, as the most senior member of council, I have been here 17 years and for 17 years I have loved coming to work every day of my life,” she said Tuesday after council’s first committee of the whole meeting of the new session. “This morning I got up and I’m coming into work and I have a huge knot in my stomach. That’s a first. That’s a first for me.”

In her affidavit, Jackson says council’s unanimous decision in June to pursue charges after a court-ordered audit of her campaign finances hinged on a series of illegal actions.

Jackson’s notice names Wilkin, the City of Vaughan, and auditors LECG Canada Inc. and Ken Froese.

“This sort of behaviour, of a mayor, the CEO of the corporation, essentially attacking the corporation, and still she sits there,” Councillor Alan Shefman said Tuesday in council chambers. “I don’t get this. I’m just appalled at this behaviour.

“As I’ve said from the day we received the report from the audit, if I were in her position, I would resign immediately because I wouldn’t want to hurt my city. I wouldn’t want to hurt my city. And we hurt.”

In her 21-page affidavit, Jackson says the questionable moves included:

• hiring Froese of LECG Canada, who was at the time not licensed under the Public Accounting Act;
• council failing to pass the required bylaws before hiring Froese to complete the audit;
• Froese going beyond the court-ordered scope of the audit;
• council failing to pass a needed bylaw when obtaining Wilkin’s external legal opinion.

Jackson also alleges Froese’s report relied on information provided by “unreliable sources”.

“The auditors base their report on information provided by persons in direct conflict with me and did not corroborate that information by interviewing other non-biased sources,” Jackson states in the affidavit.

Among the allegations in Froese’s June report are:

• spending $12,356 over her $120,419 campaign limit;
• several instances of accepting more than the allowed $750 from associated companies;
• failure to provide direction to the campaign manager in relation to delegation of the financial aspects of the campaign.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. Jackson could face removal from office if found guilty.

Jackson also argues hiring Kingston, Ont. lawyer Wilkin to determine what charges to pursue was illegal “as he was neither independent or [sic] unbiased having been retained by council to give a legal opinion”.

“Now she’s bringing a group of charges, very serious charges, against members of this council of acting, in her words, illegally,” Shefman said. “That is totally offensive to me and totally offensive to my colleagues.”

The affidavit also questions the constitutionality of the section of the Municipal Elections Act council was acting under. Jackson alleges that section breaches section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The Charter challenge allows, as soon as you insert it in a disposition like this at the court, it will allow you to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada,” Shefman said. “Well guys, that’s five years. This is about obscuring the issues, this is about avoiding the issues.”

With Jackson’s latest move, a move Shefman called a typical preemptive tactic from the corporate world, Wilkin cannot rule until after Oct. 2, the date set for a hearing on her application.

“It’s obvious that she wants to continue to run council I guess not so much from her office but from the courts,” Frustaglio said.

In spite of the controversy hanging over city hall, both Frustaglio and Shefman said the work of council will go on, with or without the mayor’s cooperation.

“She’s the titular leader only,” Shefman said. “What she does is bound by the votes on council.”

Vaughan Today
In print: September 5, 2008, page 1
Online: September 4, 2008
Byline: Alexis Dobranowski and Philip Alves