Council protest results in Di Ianni audit law firm replacement

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

News Staff

Hamilton has hired a new law firm to replace a St. Catharines-based law office that had been hired only a few days ago to provide an unbiased opinion on council's options to deal with the mayor and two political candidates' compliance audits.

The city has retained Timothy J. Wilkin, of Cunningham, Swan, Carty, Little and Bonhman and located in Kingston, Ont, after council voted to seek an independent law firm to provide advise.

A few councillors were adamantly opposed to City Solicitor Peter Barkwell's decision to hire Sullivan Mahoney to provide the legal advice to politicians on Mayor Larry Di Ianni's compliance audit. They were upset when told Thomas Richardson and Sara Premi, who was present at last week's council meeting, had previously provided legal help for the former City of Stoney Creek when Di Ianni was a councillor at the time, on the Taro lands, the Philip Services reorganization.

The firm also has provided an opinion on Official Plan amendment 28, a legal decision on a Flamborough planning issue.

Cause for concern

"That should be a cause for concern," said Flamborough councillor Margaret McCarthy, who lobbied hard for councillors to choose an "unbiased" law firm to review the audit.

"This (issue) has gotten national attention," she said. "I've lost my confidence. We need an independent law firm (that has had) no dealing with the city."

McCarthy even suggested the city hire a professor from Western Ontario, to provide advise to council.

"Can we do that?" she asked.

"The intent is not to gum up the works," said Hamilton councillor Brian McHattie, another politician who was queasy about Sullivan's past work with the city. "It's to (make sure) the integrity is unquestionable."

Flamborough councillor Dave Braden said council's willingness to make the right decision about the mayor's compliance audit "is not personal."

It's about preserving council's "integrity," he said.

"We need to clear the air," he said.

Councillors last week had two choices before them to determine the fate of Di Ianni, John Best and Marvin Caplan's compliance audits.

Options

Either politicians accept the report presented by Ken Froese of LECG audit and do nothing or accept the report and direct that charges be laid against any or all three individuals.

Barkwell said council can not refer the audit report to a judge to make a decision, an option some councillors believed they could make.

The Municipal Act also allows for a candidate or a citizen to ask that a judicial review be conducted on council's decision to determine if it was done correctly.

An irritated Bill Kelly said it is up to council to make a decision and not to drag out the proceedings any further.

"Let's cut it right now and make a decision," said Kelly. "We can get 15 different lawyers, and get 15 different answers."

Kelly, along with councillors Phil Bruckler, Maria Pearson and David Mitchell voted against retaining another lawyer.

It is unknown how much it will cost the city, but so far the compliance audit has cost taxpayers about $60,000. The money also does not include how much the city paid to Richardson for doing some preliminary work on the compliance audit.

Dundas businesswoman Joanna Chapman stated in a letter to council that only "the presiding judge" can decide if Di Ianni is guilty.

"Even if the presiding judge finds that every single error was an 'honest mistake' (which may be very difficult to imagine given the very large number), this simply avoids the candidate losing their office. It does not avoid other possible penalties such as fines," states Chapman.

She urged council to lay charges against Di Ianni so "the courts can make an impartial judgement."

Over the last two years Di Ianni has returned over $26,000 in campaign donations.

A number of councillors prior to discussing if council should hire an outside lawyer, peppered Froese with questions about whether or not he properly examined Di Ianni's campaign expenses.

Did he, for instance follow up on a few campaign donation entries that have yet to be adequately explained? asked Hamilton councillor Bob Bratina.

"We've done what we could," responded Froese.

Signs

How about looking at how much Di Ianni campaign spent on election signs? Di Ianni spent about $18,000 on signs, while his nearest competitor David Christopherson spent $41,000 on signs. Is that reasonable? asked Bratina.

Froese said his team examined sign expenses and invoices.

He said the majority of the contraventions in Di Ianni's election expenses was due to "clerical mistakes." There is a "different level" of mistakes when comparing a spelling error to failing to properly record a donation, he said.

"My responsibility is to report the contraventions," said Froese. "It is up to someone else to take it from there."

Froese also examined and found no problem with Larry Russell, Di Ianni's campaign manager, and Mario Joannette, the mayor's current chief of staff who at the time was a volunteer on Di Ianni's campaign, being paid.

Russell received $12,000, while Joannette received $5,000.

A special committee of the whole meeting has been scheduled for March 6 at 2 p.m. to debate the merits of the legal advise that will be provided to politicians.

It is also expected that the committee will accept Chapman's request to speak at the meeting.

Council protest results in Di Ianni audit law firm replacement

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

News Staff

Hamilton has hired a new law firm to replace a St. Catharines-based law office that had been hired only a few days ago to provide an unbiased opinion on council's options to deal with the mayor and two political candidates' compliance audits.

The city has retained Timothy J. Wilkin, of Cunningham, Swan, Carty, Little and Bonhman and located in Kingston, Ont, after council voted to seek an independent law firm to provide advise.

A few councillors were adamantly opposed to City Solicitor Peter Barkwell's decision to hire Sullivan Mahoney to provide the legal advice to politicians on Mayor Larry Di Ianni's compliance audit. They were upset when told Thomas Richardson and Sara Premi, who was present at last week's council meeting, had previously provided legal help for the former City of Stoney Creek when Di Ianni was a councillor at the time, on the Taro lands, the Philip Services reorganization.

The firm also has provided an opinion on Official Plan amendment 28, a legal decision on a Flamborough planning issue.

Cause for concern

"That should be a cause for concern," said Flamborough councillor Margaret McCarthy, who lobbied hard for councillors to choose an "unbiased" law firm to review the audit.

"This (issue) has gotten national attention," she said. "I've lost my confidence. We need an independent law firm (that has had) no dealing with the city."

McCarthy even suggested the city hire a professor from Western Ontario, to provide advise to council.

"Can we do that?" she asked.

"The intent is not to gum up the works," said Hamilton councillor Brian McHattie, another politician who was queasy about Sullivan's past work with the city. "It's to (make sure) the integrity is unquestionable."

Flamborough councillor Dave Braden said council's willingness to make the right decision about the mayor's compliance audit "is not personal."

It's about preserving council's "integrity," he said.

"We need to clear the air," he said.

Councillors last week had two choices before them to determine the fate of Di Ianni, John Best and Marvin Caplan's compliance audits.

Options

Either politicians accept the report presented by Ken Froese of LECG audit and do nothing or accept the report and direct that charges be laid against any or all three individuals.

Barkwell said council can not refer the audit report to a judge to make a decision, an option some councillors believed they could make.

The Municipal Act also allows for a candidate or a citizen to ask that a judicial review be conducted on council's decision to determine if it was done correctly.

An irritated Bill Kelly said it is up to council to make a decision and not to drag out the proceedings any further.

"Let's cut it right now and make a decision," said Kelly. "We can get 15 different lawyers, and get 15 different answers."

Kelly, along with councillors Phil Bruckler, Maria Pearson and David Mitchell voted against retaining another lawyer.

It is unknown how much it will cost the city, but so far the compliance audit has cost taxpayers about $60,000. The money also does not include how much the city paid to Richardson for doing some preliminary work on the compliance audit.

Dundas businesswoman Joanna Chapman stated in a letter to council that only "the presiding judge" can decide if Di Ianni is guilty.

"Even if the presiding judge finds that every single error was an 'honest mistake' (which may be very difficult to imagine given the very large number), this simply avoids the candidate losing their office. It does not avoid other possible penalties such as fines," states Chapman.

She urged council to lay charges against Di Ianni so "the courts can make an impartial judgement."

Over the last two years Di Ianni has returned over $26,000 in campaign donations.

A number of councillors prior to discussing if council should hire an outside lawyer, peppered Froese with questions about whether or not he properly examined Di Ianni's campaign expenses.

Did he, for instance follow up on a few campaign donation entries that have yet to be adequately explained? asked Hamilton councillor Bob Bratina.

"We've done what we could," responded Froese.

Signs

How about looking at how much Di Ianni campaign spent on election signs? Di Ianni spent about $18,000 on signs, while his nearest competitor David Christopherson spent $41,000 on signs. Is that reasonable? asked Bratina.

Froese said his team examined sign expenses and invoices.

He said the majority of the contraventions in Di Ianni's election expenses was due to "clerical mistakes." There is a "different level" of mistakes when comparing a spelling error to failing to properly record a donation, he said.

"My responsibility is to report the contraventions," said Froese. "It is up to someone else to take it from there."

Froese also examined and found no problem with Larry Russell, Di Ianni's campaign manager, and Mario Joannette, the mayor's current chief of staff who at the time was a volunteer on Di Ianni's campaign, being paid.

Russell received $12,000, while Joannette received $5,000.

A special committee of the whole meeting has been scheduled for March 6 at 2 p.m. to debate the merits of the legal advise that will be provided to politicians.

It is also expected that the committee will accept Chapman's request to speak at the meeting.

Council protest results in Di Ianni audit law firm replacement

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

News Staff

Hamilton has hired a new law firm to replace a St. Catharines-based law office that had been hired only a few days ago to provide an unbiased opinion on council's options to deal with the mayor and two political candidates' compliance audits.

The city has retained Timothy J. Wilkin, of Cunningham, Swan, Carty, Little and Bonhman and located in Kingston, Ont, after council voted to seek an independent law firm to provide advise.

A few councillors were adamantly opposed to City Solicitor Peter Barkwell's decision to hire Sullivan Mahoney to provide the legal advice to politicians on Mayor Larry Di Ianni's compliance audit. They were upset when told Thomas Richardson and Sara Premi, who was present at last week's council meeting, had previously provided legal help for the former City of Stoney Creek when Di Ianni was a councillor at the time, on the Taro lands, the Philip Services reorganization.

The firm also has provided an opinion on Official Plan amendment 28, a legal decision on a Flamborough planning issue.

Cause for concern

"That should be a cause for concern," said Flamborough councillor Margaret McCarthy, who lobbied hard for councillors to choose an "unbiased" law firm to review the audit.

"This (issue) has gotten national attention," she said. "I've lost my confidence. We need an independent law firm (that has had) no dealing with the city."

McCarthy even suggested the city hire a professor from Western Ontario, to provide advise to council.

"Can we do that?" she asked.

"The intent is not to gum up the works," said Hamilton councillor Brian McHattie, another politician who was queasy about Sullivan's past work with the city. "It's to (make sure) the integrity is unquestionable."

Flamborough councillor Dave Braden said council's willingness to make the right decision about the mayor's compliance audit "is not personal."

It's about preserving council's "integrity," he said.

"We need to clear the air," he said.

Councillors last week had two choices before them to determine the fate of Di Ianni, John Best and Marvin Caplan's compliance audits.

Options

Either politicians accept the report presented by Ken Froese of LECG audit and do nothing or accept the report and direct that charges be laid against any or all three individuals.

Barkwell said council can not refer the audit report to a judge to make a decision, an option some councillors believed they could make.

The Municipal Act also allows for a candidate or a citizen to ask that a judicial review be conducted on council's decision to determine if it was done correctly.

An irritated Bill Kelly said it is up to council to make a decision and not to drag out the proceedings any further.

"Let's cut it right now and make a decision," said Kelly. "We can get 15 different lawyers, and get 15 different answers."

Kelly, along with councillors Phil Bruckler, Maria Pearson and David Mitchell voted against retaining another lawyer.

It is unknown how much it will cost the city, but so far the compliance audit has cost taxpayers about $60,000. The money also does not include how much the city paid to Richardson for doing some preliminary work on the compliance audit.

Dundas businesswoman Joanna Chapman stated in a letter to council that only "the presiding judge" can decide if Di Ianni is guilty.

"Even if the presiding judge finds that every single error was an 'honest mistake' (which may be very difficult to imagine given the very large number), this simply avoids the candidate losing their office. It does not avoid other possible penalties such as fines," states Chapman.

She urged council to lay charges against Di Ianni so "the courts can make an impartial judgement."

Over the last two years Di Ianni has returned over $26,000 in campaign donations.

A number of councillors prior to discussing if council should hire an outside lawyer, peppered Froese with questions about whether or not he properly examined Di Ianni's campaign expenses.

Did he, for instance follow up on a few campaign donation entries that have yet to be adequately explained? asked Hamilton councillor Bob Bratina.

"We've done what we could," responded Froese.

Signs

How about looking at how much Di Ianni campaign spent on election signs? Di Ianni spent about $18,000 on signs, while his nearest competitor David Christopherson spent $41,000 on signs. Is that reasonable? asked Bratina.

Froese said his team examined sign expenses and invoices.

He said the majority of the contraventions in Di Ianni's election expenses was due to "clerical mistakes." There is a "different level" of mistakes when comparing a spelling error to failing to properly record a donation, he said.

"My responsibility is to report the contraventions," said Froese. "It is up to someone else to take it from there."

Froese also examined and found no problem with Larry Russell, Di Ianni's campaign manager, and Mario Joannette, the mayor's current chief of staff who at the time was a volunteer on Di Ianni's campaign, being paid.

Russell received $12,000, while Joannette received $5,000.

A special committee of the whole meeting has been scheduled for March 6 at 2 p.m. to debate the merits of the legal advise that will be provided to politicians.

It is also expected that the committee will accept Chapman's request to speak at the meeting.