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City set for battle with mayor

The City of Vaughan is gearing up for a head-on legal fight with its mayor.

Controversy inside city hall

November 2006: Jackson wins mayoralty by 90 votes. DiBiase wants a recount.

April 2007: A court-ordered recount confirms Jackson’s triumph over DiBiase — again by 90 votes.

May 2007: Gino Ruffolo and Quintino Mastroguiseppe ask city council for an audit of Jackson’s 2006 campaign finances. Council defers and the pair appeals.

December 2007: The Ruffolos launch legal action against Jackson, saying she breached the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

February 2008: Court orders audit into Jackson’s campaign books.

May 2008: City’s audit committee orders a forensic audit into Jackson’s office finances.

June 2008: Jackson’s front-end loader runs out of gas. Council unanimously agrees to press charges after an audit of Jackson’s campaign finances finds apparent contraventions of the Municipal Elections Act.

August 29, 2008: Late on Friday afternoon before the Labour Day weekend, Jackson fires back at her council colleagues in the form of a court challenge alleging illegal and unconstitutional misconduct against her.

September 2, 2008: Left reeling and angered by Jackson’s latest move, councillors retaliate using some of the strongest language heard to date. Said Councillor Alan Shefman, “She’s the titular leader only.”

September 8, 2008: Council counters by saying it did nothing untoward, and retains legal firm WeirFoulds LLP to defend itself against Jackson’s allegations, setting the stage for a legal fight between the city and its mayor.

After receiving an external legal opinion at a closed-door meeting Monday, councillors voted unanimously to defend themselves against allegations made by Mayor Linda Jackson in a legal application she filed last month.

In her suit against the city, Jackson says council’s June decision to act on a court-ordered audit of her campaign finances and pursue charges hinged on a series of illegal actions. Therefore, she argues, the audit and any looming charges should be tossed out.

“It’s clearly, even without the legal advice, extraordinary,” Councillor Alan Shefman told reporters after Monday’s meeting. “Even in the corporate world where CEOs sue their own companies, they’re out the door when they do it.”

Jackson alleges the city acted improperly when it hired auditor Ken Froese of LECG Canada and prosecutor Timothy Wilkin, who she says was neither independent nor unbiased.

Council’s response Monday included retaining legal firm WeirFoulds LLP to deal with Jackson’s suit and enacting a bylaw affirming the city had done nothing wrong in how it handled the court-ordered audit and its aftermath.

Council reaffirmed Wilkin’s authority to lay whatever charges he sees fit against Jackson as a result of the audit.

“The city is confident that it followed all proper procedures and that it has retained competent, experienced professionals to address the court-ordered compliance audit of the mayor’s 2006 campaign finances,” City Manager Michael De Angelis said in a statement.

Vaughan Today
In print: September 12, 2008, page 1
Online: September 11, 2008 [link]