Toronto

Karygiannis election overspending amounted to 'abusive conduct,' allege new court documents

Coun. Jim Karygiannis' election overspending amounted to "abusive conduct," allege new court documents filed by a Toronto advocate appealing the longtime politician's reinstatement at city hall.

Toronto election advocate appealing councillor's reinstatement at city hall

Lawyers for Coun. Jim Karygiannis, pictured above, argued a clerical error led to a misunderstanding about his campaign finances. (Paul Borkwood/CBC News)

Coun. Jim Karygiannis' election overspending amounted to "abusive conduct," allege new court documents filed by a Toronto advocate appealing the longtime politician's reinstatement at city hall.

"Our court system has overridden the will of Ontario's legislature, which created a very harsh penalty for cheating an election in this way, and they're not upholding that law," Adam Chaleff told CBC Toronto on Tuesday. 

Chaleff was an intervenor in Karygiannis's legal application to win back his job, and also requested the audit that first revealed the councillor's spending violation.

His legal team's appeal factum, filed on Monday, stresses that the issue goes far beyond this one case.

"There are thousands of candidates subject to the [Municipal Elections Act] across the province," it reads. "It is essential that a deterrent message promote compliance for the entire regulated community."

In November, an Ontario Superior Court judge allowed Karygiannis to return to work after he was briefly turfed from office over election expense filings tied to an event he hosted during the 2018 election campaign.

$32K dinner

The Scarborough-Agincourt councillor spent more than $32,000 on a voter appreciation dinner, which is nearly $26,000 more than the limit set out in provincial regulations.

Karygiannis argued the expense was a miscategorized "clerical error," saying the dinner party at question was in fact a fundraising event, which is not subject to spending limits.

Lawyers for the councillor and former longtime Liberal MP said it was clearly a mistake since Karygiannis made no attempt to hide the spending in his filings with the city.

"I find that Mr. Karygiannis acted in good faith with respect to the filing of the financial statements," Justice William Chalmers said in his reinstatement ruling.

'Not a good faith error,' factum alleges

Chaleff's factum argues the opposite, calling the event an instance of "abusive conduct" in which the councillor spent thousands of dollars that "rightly belonged to the City of Toronto." The dinner at Santorini Grill on Dec. 22, 2018 was held two months after voting day and 10 days before the campaign period officially ended, meaning any funds would have had to be remitted to the city.

"This was not a good faith error," it continues. "It was a blatant violation of the campaign spending laws."

The dinner, the factum adds, raised no money, despite being dubbed a fundraising event.

Chaleff said that doesn't add up, given the Ward 22 councillor's track record as one of council's most successful fundraisers.

"He's raised well over $200,000 now, and the idea that he could hold a fundraising event and not raise a single cent from it is preposterous," Chaleff said.

Classifying the event as a fundraiser that's not subject to any limits gave Karygiannis an advantage over his opponents, he continued.

When reached on Tuesday by CBC Toronto, Karygiannis offered "absolutely no comment," only saying he's carrying on with his work as a councillor.

A date for Chaleff's appeal has not yet been set.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren Pelley

Senior Health & Medical Reporter

Lauren Pelley covers health and medical science for CBC News, including the global spread of infectious diseases, Canadian health policy, and pandemic preparedness. Her 2020 investigation into COVID-19 infections among health-care workers won best in-depth series at the RNAO Media Awards. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca

With files from CBC News

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