Ontario Provincial Police are looking into whether two city councillors might have benefited from more than $40,000 in polling and research paid for by a developer in the run-up to the last municipal election, CBC Toronto has learned.
The detailed research and polling was invoiced to Etobicoke-based Dunpar Homes and identified support for Justin Di Ciano in Ward 5 and Mark Grimes in Ward 6 leading up to the 2014 vote.
Financial records, research data and other documents related to the polling work are in the hands of the OPP's anti-corruption unit, who are reviewing the allegations — as well as others related to Di Ciano and Grimes — to see if a full investigation is warranted.
CBC Toronto has independently examined the documents.
The two councillors deny any wrongdoing, calling the allegations unfounded and libellous.
Lawyers for Dunpar Homes — an Etobicoke-based developer — told CBC Toronto that the company did pay two invoices in 2014 from Campaign Research, a Toronto-based polling firm.
The first invoice from the polling company, for $15,300, was sent to Julien Di Ciano — Coun. Justin Di Ciano's twin brother and campaign manager — on April 21, 2014.
At the time, Julien Di Ciano was a Dunpar employee. The invoice was made out to a Dunpar development called The Ossington and a numbered company controlled by Dunpar's owner, John Zanini.
In an emailed statement, Dunpar's lawyer Howard Litowitz said that the company did not authorize polling work for the DiCiano campaign, but paid for "telemarketing work completed by Campaign Research for the sole purpose of obtaining community support for Dunpar's residential project on Ossington Avenue," and that such work is "in the ordinary course of business for Dunpar."
CBC Toronto reviewed documents that appear to be the polling work that Campaign Research invoiced for. The work makes no mention of any development projects. There's also no mention of Dunpar or The Ossington.
Instead, the polling work focused on the political leanings of Etobicoke's Ward 5 residents, where Di Ciano ran, asking them a series of questions related to the municipal election later that year. Ward 5 is several kilometres away from Ossington Avenue and Davenport Road, where Dunpar's Ossington project is being built.
Specifically, Ward 5 residents were questioned about their personal views of Justin Di Ciano and the incumbent councillor, Peter Milczyn. The February 2014 poll showed Di Ciano had "very low" name recognition compared to Milczyn.
Election rules prevent potential candidates from doing campaign-related work until they are formally registered. Di Ciano didn't register as a candidate until July 2014, by which point Milczyn had become an MPP and did not run.
But at the time of the polling, in February, numerous sources close to Di Ciano told CBC Toronto he was itching for an electoral rematch with Milczyn. Milczyn had edged out Di Ciano by only 109 votes in the previous election, in 2010.
'Completely false,' Di Ciano says
In an emailed statement, Coun. Di Ciano denied Dunpar paid for any campaign-related polling. "Any insinuation or assumption that a poll was conducted on my behalf or for my 2014 election campaign is completely false, without merit or value." He maintained that "the pillar of my election platform" was to substantially increase the fees developers pay, which he said would make Dunpar Homes unlikely to support him.
Julien Di Ciano, the councillor's campaign manager, said his brother didn't need extensive polling because "he won in a landslide. It didn't take any research at all to figure out his race wasn't even going to be close."
The Di Cianos have had personal and business ties to Dunpar for several years.
Dunpar paid 2nd invoice for $26K
Dunpar says it also paid a second, November 2014 invoice from Campaign Research titled "Toronto and Mississauga Research in September and October."
The invoice was for $26,089.60.
Dunpar's lawyer Litowitz said the second invoice was also part of the company's "ordinary course of business," namely "for market research in both the Etobicoke and Mississauga communities." Litowitz was adamant the invoice was not campaign-related, writing: "Dunpar has significant assets in both communities and is currently selling homes in multiple projects in both areas."
CBC Toronto obtained copies of what appears to be some of the polling and research work covered by the second Dunpar invoice. Again, there was no mention of any Dunpar projects, proposed developments or anything to do with Mississauga.
The work consisted largely of Campaign Research call-centre staff spending more than 500 hours identifying which residents in Ward 5 supported Di Ciano, and who in Ward 6 would be supporting Grimes. The calls were made less a week before the 2014 election.
The Di Ciano research was valued at $6,000 and the Grimes research, $10,000. Neither councillor's campaign reported those costs in its election filings, though it is unclear whether they needed to. If they had, it would have put them over their campaign spending limits. Ontario's Municipal Elections Act also forbids corporations from paying campaign-related costs for municipal candidates.
The second invoice also included two sets of robocall polling and data research in Grimes's Ward 6. Information obtained by CBC Toronto indicates the polling results were sent to a volunteer with the Grimes campaign.
Both Di Ciano and Grimes did declare some other Campaign Research expenses. Di Ciano's election filings include two invoices from the company totalling nearly $2,800 while Grimes's declared just over $1,800.
In an emailed statement, Grimes did not answer CBC's specific questions about the polling invoiced to Dunpar, saying the questions "are related to people and organizations that are separate from myself and/or my campaign." He called the allegations "unfounded" and maintained: "All of my campaign expenses were claimed and paid in full, in accordance with the Municipal Elections Act. In addition, my campaign finance documents were reviewed and subsequently authorized by an independent auditor."
A lawyer for Campaign Research, Evan Presvelos, said in an email that, in general, "We are not in a position to comment on how our clients use or have used our services. It is the responsibility of municipal candidates, third parties and their respective campaigns to accurately report their expenses and contributions."
February 2014 Campaign Research Polling Data
February 2014 Campaign Research Polling Data (PDF KB)
February 2014 Campaign Research Polling Data (Text KB)