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CATCH News – March 3, 2006

Dark date for Di Ianni?

The debate and decisions on the compliance audits of Mayor Di Ianni and two defeated candidates will take place on Monday afternoon at a special public meeting of city council beginning at 2 pm. The choice facing councillors is whether or not to lay charges over apparent violations of the Municipal Elections Act. The last council discussion on the audits attracted a large crowd of the mayor’s supporters.

The meeting will hear from an outside lawyer hired to give advice to council, and from Joanna Chapman, the Dundas bookseller who requested the audit and fought a long court battle to force council to order it after they had initially rejected her request. The two defeated candidates – Marvin Caplan and John Best – have asked to speak to the meeting, and auditor Ken Froese may also be questioned by councillors.

If Monday’s meeting results in charges against the mayor, June 24 may well be remembered as the date the wheels began to fall off his election campaign. And that’s not just because Chapman filed her request for an audit on June 24, 2004.

It was exactly a year earlier, on June 24, 2003, that the first five donations over $100 were deposited to Di Ianni’s campaign account. One came from I Waxman & Sons Ltd for the maximum $750. A second, for the same amount, came from Lightning Distribution Inc. Both were signed by Chester Waxman.The two companies are located at the same address on Centennial Parkway.

Chester Waxman, Bailey Waxman and Gary Waxman are directors of both companies. Auditor Ken Froese subsequently confirmed Chapman’s suspicion that the two companies are associated, and thus only allowed to make a total donation of $750, not the $1500 they gave Di Ianni.

One of the other donations deposited that day came from Mountain Cablevision Ltd. It was for $200, but in October the campaign accepted another donation for $750 from this company. The over-contribution wasn’t noticed by Chapman because the second cheque was recorded as a personal donation from Owen Boris on the sworn financial statement submitted by Di Ianni in March 2004. Then on Di Ianni’s final campaign statement a year later, this donation was re-classified as a corporate cheque and a refund of $200 was issued to the company.

Also on June 24, 2003, the campaign received a $1000 cheque from Village Green Denture Clinic in Stoney Creek. It was deposited the next day, but for some unexplained reason was recorded in Di Ianni’s financial records as two separate donations – one for $250 donation from Paul Pacifici (whose name appears on the cheque) and one for $750 from Village Green Denture Clinic.

Chapman noted that the clinic is not a corporation and therefore not eligible to donate. This has now been confirmed by auditor Ken Froese. But it wasn’t until Chapman got half way through her court battle for an audit that she was shown the Clinic cheque, and realized it was also for $250 above the limit.

This single cheque appears to have generated three separate violations of the Municipal Elections Act – it was for too large an amount, it came from an ineligible donor, and it was recorded incorrectly on Di Ianni’s sworn financial statement. The $250 was refunded by Di Ianni 15 months later in August 2004. The remaining $750 was re-assigned to Pacifici, making it a legal donation.

June 24, 2003 was also the day of the Di Ianni campaign’s first major fundraiser – a $200-a-ticket affair at the Ramada Plaza Hotel attended by 109 supporters. Ramada subsequently made three donations to the mayor’s campaign – $250 on September 30 and a further $850 on November 4. The latter donation came in two sequentially numbered cheques – one for $750 and one for $100.

The campaign recorded these latter two as coming from different sources – one from Ramada Plaza Hotel and one from Sahar’s Hospitality Inc. All three cheques bear both company names. All three also carry the same signature and are in other respects identical except for the dates and amounts.

The mayor returned $250 to Ramada on July 23, 2004, a month after Chapman pointed out the over-contribution. The additional $100 was refunded on December 10, 2004.

Not surprisingly, the June 24 fundraiser was followed by the deposit of 92 donations on the following day. According to the March 2004 financial statement, 48 of these were from corporations and 44 from individuals. However five of the deposits attributed to individuals were subsequently changed to corporate donations on the March 2005 financial statement.

The changes meant all five donated more than the maximum $750. Eleven other corporate donors whose cheques were deposited that day also subsequently were issued refunds for over-contributions to the campaign.

It’s unclear why Joanna Chapman chose June 24, 2004 to file her request for a compliance audit, but it would be understandable if Mayor Di Ianni chose to stay in bed when that date rolls around again this year.

Chapman filed another letter with council last week. It can be viewed at http://www.myhamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/40462C06-D3A8-4A72-82B8-810F2F39D3BF/0/Mar0664.pdf.

CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) monitors Hamilton civic
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