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5 councillors contravened elections act, but don't need an audit, committee says

A citizen committee has ruled that expenses several city councillors contravened the Municipal Elections Act during the October election, but that none of them need another audit.
Hamilton was one of the cities affected by the amalgamation initiative, absorbing five surrounding cities and towns. (Terry Asma/CBC)

A citizen committee has ruled that several city councillors contravened the Municipal Elections Act with their expenses for the October election, but that none of them need another audit.

The city's election compliance audit committee ruled on Tuesday that five councillors and one challenger contravened the act on some level. But it also ruled that there was insufficient grounds to order a compliance audit.

The campaign statements of councillors Chad Collins, Tom Jackson, Terry Whitehead, Lloyd Ferguson and Robert Pasuta, as well as Stoney Creek challenger Teresa DiFalco, all contravened the act on some level, the decisions read. In each case, the errors were sufficient to order an audit, but the committee ruled that an audit was "not warranted."

They were honest errors.- Tony Fallis , manager of elections

"(The committee) made the determination that the errors made were not substantial errors, and were not deliberate," said Tony Fallis, the city's manager of elections. '"They weren't an attempt to fool someone. They were honest errors."

At a citizen's request, the committee also looked at the expenses of councillors Sam Merulla and Maria Pearson, but those did not contravene the act.

The deliberations were part of a sweeping number of citizen complaints into the campaign finances of individual candidates in the Oct. 27 municipal election.

Viv Saunders of Stoney Creek filed applications about the expenses of eight councillors. Joanna Chapman of Dundas filed applications about Toby Yull, a Dundas candidate, and Ira Rosen, who ran in the west end. Neither Rosen nor Yull included audits with their filings, even though they were mandated to because their expenses were more than $10,000. Neither can run in the 2018 election because they breached the act.

The difference between Yull and Rosen and the sitting councillors, Fallis said, is that the others filed all of their paperwork, whereas Yull and Rosen did not.

The committee can't inflict penalties, Fallis said. It can only rule whether an audit is required.

Saunders would have to take the matter to court if she wanted to pursue it farther. She says she's thinking about it.

Saunders, who is a financial planner and consultant, said she went through "reams and reams" of paper to file her applications, and has gone through reams since. Several things still don't sit right with her, she said. But she's not surprised that no audits were ordered.

"I expect they had to order audits on all of them or none of them," she said. "Based on proceedings, I expected it to be none of them."

samantha.craggs@cbc.ca | @SamCraggsCBC

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