Audit finds Rob Ford breached Municipal Elections Act
A detailed audit of Rob Ford's campaign finances has found the mayor's 2010 election team overspent by $40,168, roughly three per cent more than government rules allow. The investigation also found Ford accepted corporate donations, which aren't allowed under the Municipal Elections Act, from holding companies associated with his family business, Deco Labels and Tags.
In a damning exposé of the the Ford team's financial management, auditors also identified spending on promotional t-shirts, signs, and the rental of an RV before the official start of Ford's run for mayor that should have counted toward his campaign total, but was left out.
Elsewhere, a section of the report titled "Excessive Amount Spent on Victory Party" reveals that a $71,167.40 invoice for lighting, sound, and media facilities was slashed in half after Doug Ford deemed it "unreasonable." The service provider, Wexler Productions, was forced to write off the remaining unpaid portion of the bill.
The campaign's RV, covered in decals and used as a backdrop during promotional events, was also provided at below the normal going rate, according the 42-page document. Other examples of "preferential treatment" included "generous credit terms" from Deco Labels and Tags and a discounted rental price on a bus used at the kick-off event.
The Municipal Elections Act counts the price difference between services provided below fair market value and the normal, everyday rate as contributions.
The year-long long audit stems from two Toronto men, Max Reed and Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, who co-direct advocacy group Fair Elections Toronto, a "non-partisan, not-for-profit organization" that has requested similar investigations of other councillor's election finances.
The pair alleged Ford exceeded the strict $1.3 million mayoral campaign spending limit in 2010 by more than $150,000, an amount auditors did not agree with. They also said prior to the successful run for office, Ford's team racked up expenses that should have been counted against his quota and used a family holding company to lend money to his campaign, which is against the rules and seems to be confirmed by Froese Forensic Partners.
In a statement, the layer for Max Reed and Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler said that due to the "extraordinary number and severity of the apparent contraventions of the election law by Rob Ford, the applicants will be requesting the Compliance Audit Committee proceed with prosecution in a timely manner."
Doug Ford, who acted as his brother's campaign manager and is referenced throughout the document, told reporters that his team was "compliant," "organized," and have "nothing to hide."
The results of the audit will now be considered on Feb. 25 by the city's compliance audit committee, a three-person team comprising a lawyer, an accountant, and an electoral expert. The group will decide whether or not to pursue non-criminal charges against Ford that could result in a $25,000 fine or even removal from office.
Here is the full report:
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.
Photo: Chris Bateman/blogTO.