Fern decision: Gripe about Zach Galifianakis's Charlie Clark election plug dismissed

The Between Two Ferns host's surprise endorsement of Clark just hours before voting spurred one of three complaints about endorsements during the 2016 municipal election.

2 other 2016 mayoral candidates also faced with complaints about endorsements

Charlie Clark celebrates at his campaign office as mayoral-elect for Saskatoon in October 2016. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

Did an endorsement by Hollywood funnyman and Between Two Ferns host Zach Galifianakis of Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark during last year's municipal election need to be reported as a campaign contribution?

Nope, says the city's election disclosure complaints officer.

But John Courtney was prompted to rule on the issue after he received a complaint about the bizarre election-day video backing of Clark by the host of the online comedic talk show Between Two Ferns and star of The Hangover.

Clark — praised by Galifianakis as "a splendid man" — beat former mayor Don Atchison by around 3,000 votes.

No money, no problem

It's not known who filed the complaint against Clark.

Atchison says it wasn't him.

Courtney, when asked for the identity of the complaint filer, said it would be "inappropriate" to provide it, citing his quasi-judicial role.

Comedian Zach Galifianakis endorses Saskatoon mayoral candidate Charlie Clark on the side of a road. (Facebook)

But the complaint stems from a belief that Galifianakis's roadside endorsement — released by Clark's campaign just hours before voting began — should have ultimately been disclosed as a campaign contribution because it came from someone "with potential influence," according to a summary of the complaint written by Courtney.

But Courtney, assisted by a Regina lawyer specializing in municipal law, has ruled that an endorsement does not equal a campaign contribution because it has no monetary value attached to it.

"A public expression of support for a candidate or endorsement does not meet the first part of the definition of a 'campaign contribution' because it is not a 'donation' of monetary value," he wrote.

Clark could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Galifianakis, who is married to Clark's stepmother's niece, was spotted three months after the election wearing a T-shirt featuring Clark — and unicorns — during a trip to the Los Angeles Zoo.

Zach Galifianakis sporting a Charlie Clark T-shirt at the Los Angeles Zoo. (Charlie Clark/Facebook)

Atchison, Kelley Moore also focus of complaints

The two other mayoral candidates — Atchison and Kelley Moore  — had similar complaints lodged against them: Atchison for an endorsement from Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, and third-placer Kelley Moore for the support sent her way by entrepreneur Sara Wheelwright.

Those complaints were dismissed as well, for the same reason as the complaint about Clark.

Moore is also alleged to have received support from Saskatoon-based Prairie Wild Consulting in the form of "undeclared equipment use and services," according to Courtney's report.

But Courtney wrote that he was "satisfied that all in-kind contributions for equipment or services were properly disclosed and that no violation of the election disclosure rules of Bylaw 8491 had taken place." 

Watch Galifianakis's complaint-sparking endorsement below.

Zach Galifianakis gives last-minute endorsement before Saskatoon mayoral candidate wins election 0:56

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips, ideas, complaints, just want to say 'Hi'? Write me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca