Ford, accused of spending improperly during his mayoral bid, will submit to an audit of his campaign expenses.
It was almost a year ago that Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler and Max Reed—the former an activist and the latter a lawyer—brought a campaign compliance audit against Rob Ford, in which they alleged that the mayor had exceeded legal spending limits during his mayoral campaign, and committed other financial sins forbidden under the Municipal Elections Act. Forfeiture of office is a possible penalty for running afoul of the Act. Ford’s lawyers had been trying to appeal the audit, but today the mayor’s office issued a press release saying that the appeal is over. Ford will allow an auditor to comb through his election expenses, come what may. The full text of the release is after the jump.
Rob Ford announced today that he has instructed his lawyers to suspend legal proceedings arising from the request by two electors for an audit of his election campaign finances to permit the audit to proceed immediately.
Ford’s lawyers appealed a decision by the City’s compliance audit committee to proceed with an audit and requested that the court conduct a new hearing under the Municipal Elections Act. That Act permits any elector to request an audit of the election campaign finances of any candidate.
In a recent decision, the judge who is scheduled to hear the appeal later this month decided that the legislation does not require a new hearing on such appeals. That decision has been appealed by another candidate affected by the decision to a higher court. The first available court dates for a new hearing would not be until the end of this year.
“We wanted to have a new hearing in court at the first available opportunity and save taxpayers expense if the court decided an audit was unnecessary. It now appears that the way to have this matter addressed fully without delay is to proceed with an audit,” Ford said.
“Everything during the campaign was done in good faith with the intention of complying fully with election law,” added Ford. “We will co-operate fully with any auditor appointed by the City.”
The financial records of the campaign were audited by an experienced auditor, as required by the Municipal Elections Act, before they were filed last year.
And here’s a statement from Chaleff-Freudenthaler, on behalf of his watchdog group, Fair Elections Toronto:
Fair Elections Toronto is pleased that Mayor Ford has withdrawn his appeal of the order to audit his election campaign.
While Mayor Ford’s decision to suspend his appeal is commendable, we note that it comes almost a full year after an audit was ordered and on the heels of multiple judgements in other Ontario courts that made it abundantly clear that no court would side with the legal arguments advanced by the mayor to oppose an audit.
We hope that this indicates the beginning of Mayor Ford’s full cooperation with the audit process, including his willingness to provide access to any record deemed necessary by the auditor that is within his personal control, including those of the Rob Ford for Mayor Campaign, Deco Labels and Tags, and Doug Ford Holdings, as well as those related to his duties at the City of Toronto.
As the City of Toronto has already retained an auditor, Fair Elections Toronto expects that an audit will commence within a matter of weeks.
Fair Elections Toronto would also like to express its gratitude to our legal team of Rob Centa, Nini Jones and Jodi Martin at Paliare Roland LLP for their determined effort to zealously guard the procedural loopholes that Mayor Ford attempted to exploit throughout his appeal.
[Disclosure: Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler is Torontoist editor-in-chief Hamutal Dotan's partner; she was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.]