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Mayor Ford overspent campaign finances by $40.1K: audit

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford during a city council meeting, Jan. 15, 2013. CITYNEWS

A forensic audit of Mayor Rob Ford’s 2010 campaign finances shows he broke the Municipal Elections Act.

The audit said the mayor exceeded the authorized spending limit of $1.3 million by $40,168, or about three per cent, meaning he contravened Subsection 76(4) of the act.

It also found that Ford violated sections of the act when he incurred $5,805.09 in campaign expenses for signs, T-shirts and a chartered bus prior to filing his nomination papers, failed to pay the entire amount of $71,167.40 for the mayor’s victory party and that the Ford campaign borrowed money from the family business, which didn’t meet the definition of a bank or lending institution.

Click here to read the audit report prepared by Froese Forensic Partners Ltd. for the City of Toronto.

The report will be discussed at a compliance audit committee meeting on Feb. 25. Its three-person panel will now analyze the violations and may bring in a special prosecutor.

If the case is brought to a prosecutor, non-criminal charges would be laid, and a conviction could result in penalties ranging from fines to Ford’s ouster from office. But no Ontario politician has been seriously punished for violating the act.

The mayor, who was expected to speak after 5 p.m., wasn’t available for comment.

The audit was based on allegations by two Toronto residents, Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler and Max Reed, that Ford’s 2010 campaign exceeded the $1.3-million limit and that he broke the law by borrowing about $77,722 in campaign expenses from his family’s company, Doug Ford Holdings Inc.

In May 2011, the city’s compliance audit committee ordered the forensic review. Ford launched an appeal, but abandoned the effort last spring.

In a statement released by their lawyer, Chaleff-Freudenthaler and Reed said on Friday, “Based on the extraordinary number and severity of the apparent contraventions of election law by Rob Ford, the applicants will be requesting the Compliance Audit Committee proceed with prosecution in a timely manner.”

Earlier on Friday, the mayor’s brother Coun. Doug Ford and Coun. Adam Vaughan, who represent opposite ends of the political spectrum at Toronto City Hall, traded barbs over the audit.

During a brief media scrum Ford asked why no left-leaning members of council are facing the same scrutiny as his mayor brother.

“I’d like to do a forensic audit on his campaign,” he said of Vaughan.

“If you’ve got allegations, bring ‘em on,” Vaughan responded.

Ford criticized Vaughan for “making deals with developers for Section 37 for a million dollars.” Vaughan clarified the process is “totally legal.”

Section 37 is part of the municipal planning act. It allows the city to let developers build beyond limits set out in the zoning bylaw in return for community benefits.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said this latest challenge against the mayor is coming from “politically-motivated places.”

“It does seem like they’re piling up on the mayor. He’s won two of his cases, let’s hope he wins his third,” Holyday said.

“These people are politically motivated and think that they can get away with anything and if they can’t beat the mayor at the ballot box, they’ll beat him in the court.”

Last week, the mayor won a major court battle when an Ontario Divisional Court panel granted his appeal of a lower court that ordered him out of office. Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland ruled on Nov. 26 that Ford broke the provincial Municipal Conflict of Interest Act when he participated in a council vote on whether he should have to repay donations he accepted for his football charity from city lobbyists. He used city resources to solicit donations.

The panel overruled Hackland’s decision.

Ford also came out on top in a $6-million defamation suit launched against him by local restaurateur George Foulidis. The case was dropped on Dec. 27.

With files from The Canadian Press