Judge finds no bias
Decision clears way for prosecutor to charge mayor
Vaughan city councillors are pleased with a recent court decision that cleared them of wrongdoing and bias against Mayor Linda Jackson.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Peter Lauwers’ ruling, released last week, dismissed Jackson’s claims that council’s unanimous call in June to pursue charges after a court-ordered audit of her campaign finances hinged on a series of illegal actions.
In his 60-page judgment, Lauwers found “the evidence (did) not support the applicant’s allegations of capricious behaviour, corrupt motivation, bias, bad faith or otherwise unlawful action, response or purpose on the part of city council”.
“The court decision is obviously very positive,” Councillor Alan Shefman said Monday. “Addressing the issue of bias, the judge’s comments were in fact there was no bias. It was simply council doing its duty according to the law.”
The audit of Jackson’s 2006 campaign books found several apparent contraventions of the Municipal Elections Act, including spending $12,356 over her allowed $120,419 campaign limit.
Lauwers’ ruling also dismissed Jackson’s constitutional challenge of a portion of the act, which she argued breached section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, her right not to incriminate herself.
“I am disappointed with the decision of the court,” Jackson said in a statement released last Thursday. “However, I want to take the time to further review the judgment to determine if there are grounds for appeal.”
Though Councillor Tony Carella admitted he’s no lawyer, he said after reading Lauwers’ ruling he found nothing by which Jackson could base an appeal.
“You can’t appeal just because you don’t like a decision,” he said Monday. “There has got to be judicial error, there’s got to be something that’s got to be corrected. Appeals are not on substantive matters but on procedural matters.”
Jackson’s legal challenge had blocked city-retained prosecutor Timothy Wilkin from laying charges against her, but Lauwers’ ruling changes that. It’s now up to Wilkin to decide when and what charges to pursue.
Jackson could face removal from office if found guilty of the more serious charges Wilkin may pursue.
On Dec. 15, Jackson was asked to resign in an extraordinary move by Vaughan’s eight regional and ward councillors. The call for the embattled mayor to quit still stands, Carella said.
“Given the apparent contraventions, the number of them, the substance of them, it might save everybody, including the taxpayers of Vaughan, if she took that course,” he said.
Vaughan Today In print: March 20, 2009, page 1 Online: March 19, 2009 [link]