(WINDSOR, ON) – Former council candidate Gabe Maggio was called in front of the City’s Audit Compliance Committee today after a complaint was filed against his financial statements by senescent political hanger-on Paul Synnott. In his complaint, Synnott listed four points with which he personally had issue and used to legitimize his risible mysticism.
The first three complaints raised regarded the value of 100 square feet of space at the far back of last year’s Bluesfest, the accounting for some $4,300, and the use of Maggio’s own office space as a campaign headquarters.
According to Ted Boomer, the founder and organizer of Bluesfest for the past 20 years, the space Maggio occupied had zero value. He cited numerous examples of when he has given organizations free space during the festival as a regular course of business. Boomer also relayed numerous times he’s given free tickets and other benefits to countless city councilors, MPPs, and MPs over the last two decades.
In my estimation, Synnott needs to upgrade his eyeglass prescription considering he completely missed the listing of donations within Maggio’s financials. The $4,300 was itemized and this fact was pointed out to him by former city solicitor George Wilkki, a member of the Audit Committee. Synnott chose to argue with Wilkki instead of accepting that he had made a mistake.
During the campaign, Maggio utilized two storage rooms within his office space to conduct his campaign. This is not unlike using rooms his own home for the campaign. The example, in this case, is Maggio’s opponent in Ward 3, Rino Bortolin.
Bortolin listed $153.10 in office expenses for the duration of the election. Where was his campaign office; in his home or at his restaurant? For comparison, Maggio listed $159.51.
In fact, some of the sitting councillors didn’t declare any office expenses during their run for office.
Synnott’s fourth issue was a case of Maggio accepting a $500 donation from a US citizen, contrary to the Municipal Elections Act.
The question of the donation was first brought to light in the pages of the local paper. Typically, without even contacting Maggio, scribbler Chris Vander Doelen disclosed the donation in the last two paragraphs of his column. He did have an opportunity to discuss the issue with Synnott.
Paul Synott, a professional manager who had a hand in a half dozen of the 2014 Windsor council campaigns, said he intends to file several complaints, starting with a donation listed on Maggio’s statement: $500 from a U.S. Citizen. The currency is not identified.
On March 27, Synnott declared the donation to be “illegal” and indicated that he would file a complaint.
At the time of the donation, the home address of the gentleman in question was not ascertained. Only when compiling the financial statement was the residency discovered, and there was no attempt to cover it up. Quite simply, a Canadian address could have been inserted, if Maggio had any desire hide the faux pas. But he didn’t.
Maggio did contact the donor and advised him of the situation.
When Maggio learned of the inadmissibility of the donation, he contacted the City Clerk’s office looking for direction. City Clerk, Valerie Critchley refused to provide any guidance to Maggio and refused to direct the question to the Audit Committee.
Unlike many other jurisdictions in Ontario, Windsor failed to provide the municipal candidates with any training regarding the election, including the intricacies in the financial area. It is no surprise then that the clerk was unwilling to help Maggio.
On February 17, however, Critchley willingly gave Maggio direction and instructions when it came to the filing of the financials.
The Audit Committee then set today as the date to consider the complaint from Synnott. In attendance were four members of the media, Synnott dressed in shorts and sandals, and four members of City Administration including Critchley, Chuck Scarpelli, the manager of elections, and Helga Reidel, the City’s CAO.
There were a few obligatory questions before a question was put to the member of the City’s legal staff. He related the story of another case where the candidate had taken a donation from a non-eligible donor but that, in that case, the candidate had returned the money.
Maggio could have done the same thing had he been given the option as a course of action.
There were no further questions and none from Administration were called upon to speak. Why were they there?
George Wilkki then read a prepared motion that had been pre-printed and distributed to the Committee by the Council Services representative. They voted unanimously to put the issue to an auditor. That is somewhat ironic.
Additionally, the City failed to mitigate the expense of the audit for something that will be found to be an administrative error.
The deadline to file a complaint was June 27. Synnott chose to wait until the last possible second to file his complaint. This was possibly a tactic to ensure none of the half-dozen candidates he assisted in the election would have complaints filed against them. In essence, as a former blogger for the Windsor Star, whose writers have prominently attempted to smear Maggio, and a so-called professional manager, the basis for Synnott’s complaint was clearly politically motivated.
Furthermore, Synnott and Bortolin have a long history, and even co-hosted a radio show together.
When lawyers in Windsor question the validity of the section of the MEA under which Synnott filed his complaint, I have to question the motivation for making that complaint.
And what will be the outcome? Let’s presume that the City arranges for this witch-hunt to proceed to court. What are the penalties as prescribed for in the MEA?
Offences by candidate
(5) A candidate is guilty of an offence and, on conviction, in addition to any other penalty that may be imposed under this Act, is subject to the penalties described in subsection 80 (2), if he or she,
(a) files a document under section 78 or 79.1 that is incorrect or otherwise does not comply with that section; or
(b) incurs expenses that exceed what is permitted under section 76. 1996, c. 32, Sched., s. 92 (5); 2002, c. 17, Sched. D, s. 35 (1); 2009, c. 33, Sched. 21, s. 8 (65, 66).
(6) However, if the presiding judge finds that the candidate, acting in good faith, committed the offence inadvertently or because of an error in judgment, the penalties described in subsection 80 (2) do not apply. 1996, c. 32, Sched., s. 92 (6); 2002, c. 17, Sched. D, s. 35 (2); 2009, c. 33, Sched. 21, s. 8 (67).
So if a judge decides that the US donation was, in fact, an oversight, there will be no penalties incurred by Maggio. How is this a proper use of tax payers’ money? There are still five candidates who haven’t filed their financials whatsoever.