Friday May 25: Springwater committee meets to receive new compliance audit report
By Kate Harries AWARE News Network
Springwater’s compliance audit committee meets on Friday to receive the second audit of Mayor Bill French’s 2014 campaign expenses, completed by Glen Davison of Froese Forensic Partners.
The committee members, appointed jointly by Springwater and Oro-Medonte councils before the last municipal election, are Robert Barlow and George Wodoslawsky of Oro-Medonte and Colin McLarty of Springwater.
The meeting, set for 9am to noon in the township council chambers, is open to the public.
The audit was requested on June 24, 2015, one day ahead of the deadline, by defeated deputy mayoral candidate and former deputy mayor Dan McLean. At the committee’s first hearing on July 20, 2015, McLean was represented by well-known Toronto lawyer Jack Siegel. French represented himself.
The committee voted 2-1 to appoint an auditor, with Barlow, the chair, opposed. Melanie Dugard of Grant Thornton was retained and completed her report in September 2015. But following vigorous criticism of Dugard by Siegel, the committee, at an October 23 2015 public hearing, refused to accept her report and ordered another audit.
On November 20 2015, French applied for a judicial review of the committee’s decision, arguing that the committee had exceeded its jurisdiction. On July 18 2016, McLean also applied for a judicial review. After a hearing at Osgoode Hall on January 5 2017, Madam Justice Frances Kiteley dismissed McLean’s application as it applied to Grant Thornton.
In July 2017, following a process overseen by Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco, all parties, including McLean, were prepared to agree for the process to go ahead with a solution that would have staunched escalating costs, French revealed in a statement at the committee’s last meeting in February. Only the committee, advised by Toronto lawyer Judy Johnson, refused.
At Osgoode Hall on December 18 2017, a judicial review panel – consisting of Justices Sidney Lederman, Anne Molloy and Michael Quigley – heard the competing applications from French and McLean. French’s application was dismissed as “premature” and he was ordered to pay legal costs of $15,000 to McLean and $5,000 to the compliance audit committee.
Dugard’s audit of French’s expenses found five instances of apparent non-compliance with the Municipal Elections Act totalling $1,175. The addition of those expenses to the $15,300 reported by French did not put him above the $20,000 spending limit for his campaign.
As of January 2018, the cost to Springwater taxpayers of proceedings involving the compliance audit committee came to $208,671, according to figures obtained from the township under Freedom of Information legislation. But Kitely ordered McLean to pay costs of $15,000 to the township; with that award deducted, the total came to $193,671. The meter is still running.
Kate Harries is a member of the board of AWARE Simcoe, which endorsed French’s candidacy for mayor in 2014.