Mayor John Tory said Thursday he won't ask for the resignation of a city councillor who's under investigation by the OPP for possible election law violations during the 2014 campaign.
"I have zero tolerance for any wrongdoing, but the fact is, there are lots of allegations made all the time about people and an allegation doesn't mean somebody's done something wrong," he said.
"The operative words are due process. The facts are important here, not allegations, but facts."
As first reported by CBC Toronto, OPP investigators have been reviewing Coun. Justin Di Ciano's election campaign spending for the past six months, and they've now determined there are grounds for a formal investigation.
It's the second investigation the provincial force has opened into matters at city hall in as many months.
In this newest case, OPP spokesperson Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne confirmed that the force's anti-rackets branch is "investigating potential violations of the Municipal Elections Act with reference to... Di Ciano," who represents Ward 5 in Etobicoke.
The news comes after CBC Toronto reported last month on a secret audio recording of Di Ciano's twin brother — who was his campaign manager in the 2014 race — offering to reimburse two donors in cash if they gave to the campaign. If cash did trade hands in exchange for a campaign donation, it could amount to a violation of the elections act, according to legal experts. Di Ciano's brother denied he ever paid cash to the donors, and the donors denied any recollection of any such transaction.
A second CBC report last month revealed that an Etobicoke developer had paid for $40,000 worth of campaign polling and research that might have benefited Di Ciano and another west-end councillor. The Municipal Elections Act forbids councillors from accepting election contributions from corporations. Dunpar maintained the polling was for its commercial development work.
OPP anti-corruption investigators had already obtained the secretly recorded audio as part of preliminary review of allegations involving Di Ciano. Those officers also obtained a stack of documents – mostly financial records and research data – related to the $40,000 in polling work, and have interviewed numerous people so far, CBC Toronto has learned.
The OPP's Dionne said the investigation could expand to include other individuals besides just Di Ciano.
In the past, Di Ciano has denied any wrongdoing. Reached by phone Wednesday, he had no immediate reaction to the news and requested any questions be emailed. In his written response, he did not comment on the OPP probe but claimed CBC was making "false statements" and relying on "rumours." In particular, he did not reply to a question about whether he will run for re-election in the municipal vote scheduled for Oct. 22.
Offences under the Municipal Elections Act are not criminal, but they can carry penalties of up to six months in jail in the most serious cases. A city councillor can also be kicked out of office for certain offences and be barred from running in the next municipal election.
The investigation into Di Ciano traces back to a complaint in 2016 to Toronto's integrity commissioner alleging the councillor has benefited "financially and politically" from his relationship to Etobicoke developer Dunpar Homes and thus violated the city's code of conduct for elected officials. After starting to look into that complaint, integrity commissioner Valerie Jepson referred the case to Toronto police, which she is obliged to do if she finds any evidence of potentially more serious offences.
Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders then called in the OPP last fall to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, since city councillors sit on the Toronto force's board and set its budget.
A number of sources interviewed so far by OPP investigators told CBC Toronto that police have asked about Di Ciano's 2014 campaign materials and who paid for them, whether the campaign reimbursed donors in cash for their contributions, and the councillor's personal and business relationship with Dunpar.
Di Ciano was instrumental in having land rezoned for Dunpar in 2016 against the advice of city planners. He has denied any improper relationship with the company.
Asked earlier this year whether Dunpar's offices, equipment or staff were ever used in any way to help Di Ciano's 2014 election campaign, company owner and president John Zanini said: "Not to my knowledge."
The investigation into Di Ciano is the second active probe by the OPP into officials at Toronto city hall, following the revelation that officers are also looking into an aborted $12.2-million land deal involving the Toronto Parking Authority.
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