DiVona leaves budget chair
Councillor resigns committee post following audit report
Councillor Bernie DiVona resigned his post as Vaughan’s budget chief prior to a Monday evening committee meeting.
The move comes on the heels of a damaging audit report delving into his 2006 campaign finances, released last week.
DiVona may have used thousands of dollars from his 2006 election funds to pay for repairs to the roof of his home, the audit uncovered.
“A campaign cheque was issued to Fabrizi Roofing for $3,000 for work performed on Mr. DiVona’s personal residence,” auditors Ken Froese and Glen Davison wrote. “Mr. DiVona advised us that he believed that he was owed in excess of $3,000 for campaign disbursements at the time of payment.
“He advised that he essentially skipped a step in that the reimbursement should have been paid to him personally and he, in turn, should have issued a personal cheque to Fabrizi Roofing.”
In their report, Froese and Davison detailed several other apparent contraventions of the Municipal Elections Act in addition to the alleged personal use of campaign funds.
DiVona may have spent more than double his allowed campaign expense limit, potentially placing his council seat in jeopardy.
According to the audit report, DiVona’s campaign records indicate he spent just under $21,000, or roughly $5,500 less than $26,476 allowed limit. The auditors, however, determined his campaign expenses were closer to $36,000, about 36 percent more than his campaign’s limit.
That number skyrockets if expenses related to a campaign barbecue fall under election spending rules, the report states. If they do, the auditors found, DiVona overspent his limit by almost $29,000, or roughly 109 percent more than what was allowed.
The report in part attributes the discrepancy between what DiVona claimed was spent and what the auditors found to problems with valuing goods and services in kind, including $500-worth of donated pumpkins that went unreported.
Under the Municipal Elections Act, anything donated to a campaign must be entered in the books at its fair market value.
It’s now up to city council to determine whether to pursue charges, as they did with Mayor Linda Jackson. DiVona, like Jackson, could face removal from office if found guilty of the most serious allegations contained in the audit report.
The audit into DiVona’s campaign books was ordered by Justice Howard Chisvin in October after Carlo DeFrancesca, Robert Zuccarini and Richard Lorello appealed an earlier council decision to deny one.
DiVona could not be reached by press time.
Vaughan Today In print: May 1, 2009, page 1 Online: April 30, 2009 [link]