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Cost of coming clean

It’s about transparency, not blame, council says

The tally so far: nearly three-quarters of a million a dollars.

That’s how much the city has paid, as of March 31, for audits of the 2006 campaign books of four Vaughan political heavyweights and related legal fees.

The figure was made public at the request of Councillor Tony Carella in a May 12 city report, which drew the ire of Richard Lorello.

The report named Lorello and the other residents who originally pushed for the audits.

“I question your motivation, Councillor Carella, because it seems like the report is an attempt to parade a bunch of people through and say, ‘Look at what these people are costing us’,” he said at city hall Tuesday. “I’m sure you understand that the right of citizen’s to ask for a compliance audit, as has been the case in Vaughan, is exactly that: a right.”

Carella dismissed Lorello’s argument, saying he never doubted the audit requests were motivated by anything but a belief the Municipal Elections Act may have been contravened.

“This report is the result of a request of several of my constituents to know the costs associated with these compliance audits,” he said. “This is what I have requested on their behalf in furtherance of the transparency that several deputants spoke of as so highly needed in this and other regards.”

Mayor Linda Jackson, former mayor Michael DiBiase, Regional Councillor Joyce Frustaglio and Councillor Bernie DiVona have each faced the scrutiny of compliance audits.

The priciest of the four so far has been Jackson’s. Her audit alone cost $102,085. Throw in lawyers’ fees for legal advice and courtroom appeals and that number balloons to $446,571.

Costs associated with DiVona’s audit total $139,561, DiBiase’s has cost $105,385 and Frustaglio’s rang up a bill of $52,417.

It adds up to $743,933 paid by the city to lawyers and auditors.

And the number continues to grow as issues related to Jackson’s, DiVona’s and DiBiase’s audits have yet to be resolved.

Despite his reservations over the audit cost report, Lorello asked council to expand its review and make all spending on litigation public.

“When you have too much litigation, it is a measure that you are mismanaged, in my opinion,” Lorello said. “Mismanagement also indicates, in my opinion, incompetence because when you have this amount of litigation in any organization, it means that something’s wrong.

“This report is only a small portion of the legal costs that our city and our taxpayers are having to bare.”

Regional Councillor Gino Rosati agreed with Lorello’s call for a full legal cost accounting.

“I think it would be beneficial to have a comprehensive report,” Rosati said. “I think it’s very, very important that we do analyze what has taken place.”

Rosati asked city staff to prepare a report that lists all legal costs paid by the city dating back to the beginning of the current council’s term. No deadline for the report was given.

Vaughan Today
In print: May 15, 2009, page 1
Online: May 14, 2009 [link]