OPP charges 2 Toronto city councillors for alleged campaign finance violations

Two Toronto city councillors were charged with campaign finance violations Friday by the Ontario Provincial Police's anti-rackets unit for allegedly failing to disclose tens of thousands of dollars worth of spending.

Etobicoke councillors accused of violating Municipal Elections Act during 2014 election

Councillors Mark Grimes, right, and Justin Di Ciano chat during a Toronto city council meeting. Each faces a non-criminal charge for allegedly submitting incorrect filings following the 2014 municipal election. (John Rieti/CBC)

Two Toronto city councillors were charged with campaign finance violations Friday by the Ontario Provincial Police's anti-rackets unit for allegedly failing to disclose tens of thousands of dollars worth of spending. 

The OPP said Coun. Mark Grimes, 57, and Coun. Justin Di Ciano, 40, who represent Etobicoke wards, have been charged with filing "incorrect" documents that do not comply with the Municipal Elections Act following the 2014 election.

CBC Toronto reported in February that the OPP was examining allegations that Grimes and Di Ciano benefited from detailed research and polling results, some of which was collected in the weeks before the 2014 election, that was paid for by the Etobicoke-based developer Dunpar.

OPP Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne confirmed the charge laid against each councillor is related to that polling work.

She said the councillors are accused of failing to disclose at least $26,000 worth of expenses. CBC Toronto has reported that total could be as high as $40,000.

The OPP previously confirmed to the CBC's John Lancaster that investigators have seized emails between Campaign Research, which conducted the polling, and two of Grimes's senior campaign officials.

Neither Campaign Research nor Dunpar faces any allegations of wrongdoing.

If the allegations against Grimes and Di Ciano are proven to be true, the councillors could face a $25,000 fine, be forced from office, or be barred from running in the next two municipal elections.

Toronto's integrity commissioner launched the investigation, which was then referred to Toronto police before being handed over to the OPP. 

Both councillors are set to make a court appearance on Dec. 19. 

Di Ciano, left, speaks with Toronto Mayor John Tory in the council chambers. Tory has declined to comment on the charges and police investigation while the matter is before court. (John Rieti/CBC)

Grimes just won re-election in the new Etobicoke-Lakeshore ward last month by capturing about 41 per cent of the vote.

Despite the police investigation, Mayor John Tory endorsed Grimes in the final hours of October's election, praising his "determination and experience" in a robocall to voters.

Tory said little about the charges on Friday.

"These matters are now before the courts where both councillors have publicly said they will challenge these allegations. For that reason, I will be making no further comment at this time."

Di Ciano will not be returning to city council when the new council is sworn in on Dec. 4.

The first-term councillor bowed out of the race following Premier Doug Ford's decision to cut the size of city council to 25 seats, even though he was a vocal proponent of Queen's Park's move.

Disclosure was not required, Grimes's lawyer says

Grimes and Dunpar have adamantly denied the accusations from the beginning.

 In a statement. on Friday, Di Ciano's lawyer, Scott Fenton, chalked the overspending up to "clerical errors."

"The real offence here is the extraordinary waste of scarce government resources spent chasing down minor alleged oversights regarding a long-forgotten municipal election campaign."

Lawyer Peter Brauti, who is representing Grimes, sent CBC Toronto a statement saying the councillor has done nothing wrong.

"An allegation has been made that he should have made additional financial disclosure for his campaign from four years ago. No such disclosure was required," Brauti said in an email.

Brauti also said Grimes wouldn't lose his office if convicted because the allegations stem from a previous election.

The OPP said the probe is ongoing, and anyone with information is asked to contact investigators.