Updated

Dead person voted but no fraud charges coming after Hamilton police HWAD investigation

Hamilton police say there's not enough evidence to lay charges in a voter fraud investigation into a Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas (HWAD) Ontario PC investigation.

Hamilton police say they arrested 2 people during the investigation but released them

Doug Ford, right, chats with Ben Levitt, PC candidate for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas in the 2018 election, at a Ford campaign rally in downtown Hamilton. Hamilton police looked into Levitt's nomination - which predated Ford being chosen as leader - and now say there's not enough evidence to keep going. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hamilton police say there's not enough evidence to lay charges in a voter fraud investigation into a Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas (HWAD) Ontario PC nomination, even though they made two arrests and found evidence that a dead person voted.

Police say they've closed an investigation dating back to spring 2017. That's when investigators started looking into claims that an HWAD nomination meeting was rigged in favour of federal Conservative staffer Ben Levitt when it should actually have gone to local lawyer Vikram Singh.

Investigators say they uncovered forms that "appeared to have been falsified" from the credentials table, where Singh and challenger Jeff Peller have always maintained party officials tipped the scales in Levitt's favour. They even found that one person who appeared to have voted that night died a week earlier.

The forms from the credentials table were "all marked in what appeared to be a similar manner.... These ballots were all votes for Ben Levitt," said police. Police said they interviewed people named on the forms and found they didn't actually attend the meeting and did not vote.

Police seized more than 61 items as evidence, including 1,800 PC Party ballots, 345 credentials referral forms and 1,648 pages of email correspondence. They also interviewed nearly 150 witnesses from multiple jurisdictions and executed 15 judicial authorizations.

But in the end, police say, there wasn't enough to charge anyone.

"Hamilton police have reviewed the matter with the Crown Attorney and at this time, there is insufficient evidence to proceed with the laying of criminal charges," police said in a media release Monday.

"During the extensive investigation, several persons of interest were identified. Two arrests were made, but those individuals were subsequently released unconditionally. Hamilton police have reviewed the matter with the Crown Attorney and at this time, there is insufficient evidence to proceed with the laying of criminal charges."

Vikram Singh, a local lawyer, won the total of seven other voting tables, but Levitt won based on the credentials table. (vsingh.ca)

Singh isn't upset about the lack of charges, and instead expresses gratitude that volunteers and voters supported him.

"I have full faith in Hamilton Police Service, and the detectives who spent countless hours on what appears to be an extensive and thorough investigation," he said. 

"This story is something to reflect on, for the public and the electorate, to ensure we improve our system." 

The PC party, meanwhile, said Premier Doug Ford wasn't leader of the party when the nomination battle happened, and fixed the mess when he did become leader. 

He was "elected leader of our party on a promise to clean up the mess left behind by Patrick Brown," the party said in an email. "He took immediate action to set aside the nomination and reopened it under a transparent and fair system.

"Questions surrounding the allegations contained in the police report should be directed to Patrick Brown. " 

The HWAD matter dates back to a May 7, 2017 nomination meeting at Ancaster High School.

Levitt, Singh, Peller and Jobson Easow all wanted to run for the PC party in June 2018 in the newly drawn riding. Police found Singh, a Dundas lawyer, won the combined vote of the seven regular voting tables. Levitt's win mainly came from the credentials table, which was staffed by Dykstra, Stanley and PC staffer Logan Bugeja.

Patrick Brown was still Ontario PC party leader. Singh and Peller appealed to the party to investigate, which the party refused. Both then went to the courts and asked for a judicial review.

In court documents, Dykstra said the party felt Singh "inspired mistrust" and "didn't fit the right demographic." He also said the party could pick whoever it wanted, regardless of who won at a nomination meeting.

Peller eventually dropped his challenge. Singh continued, and went to court to try to unveil a surreptitiously recorded conversation between himself and some party insiders. The court turned that down, saying the conversation had been part of trying to reach a settlement.

The party was also successful in getting the court to rule that Singh hand over $136,315 for legal costs over the secret recording.

In the end, Singh dropped his challenge too. Levitt asked for another nomination meeting, which he won. Singh wanted to run for that nomination but his application wasn't accepted.

The HWAD incident was just one of several PC nomination challenges at the time. In the end, Brown was ousted from the party following sexual misconduct allegations. Doug Ford became the leader, and eventually premier. NDP candidate Sandy Shaw won HWAD.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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