Toronto resident Jude MacDonald has filed a formal complaint with integrity commissioner Janet Leiper, alleging there are “reasonable and probable grounds” that Mayor Rob Ford has violated the city’s code of conduct rules because he has improperly disclosed office expenses.
The complaint, which was laid out in a 23-page affidavit submitted to the city Thursday, follows a Globe and Mail investigation revealing that Mr. Ford’s office submitted just over $1,700 in expenses for a staff for 17 for the first quarter of 2011.
Under the city’s expense policy, which is now under review, members of council are required to submit receipts for expenses paid for with personal funds. According to the city’s council expense disclosure records, Mr. Ford claimed to have spent none of his own money to cover costs associated with running his office. He has not reported any expenses relating to his cellphone or office stationary.
“In my view, it strains credulity for Mayor Ford to claim that his real total office expenses are less than that of his council colleagues and that a 17-person office has spent less than $2,000 on expenses in three months,” Ms. MacDonald stated in her affidavit. “Politicians’ office expenses are paid for from the public purse to ensure that public office is available to all and is not the exclusive domain of the wealthy.”
In an interview Friday, Ms. MacDonald, a freelancer writer and a former editor-in-chief with Rabble.ca, said she’s concerned that the mayor be required to observe the rules that apply to other council members. Asked what she expects from her request, Ms. MacDonald replied, “At the very least, full disclosure.”
The complaint comes at a time when deputy mayor Doug Holyday is negotiating a new expense policy that lowers councillor spending ceilings to $30,000.
But the proposed policy, released for discussion in late April, may significantly relax the rules governing the use of personal funds for office expenses.
The existing rules state that “councillors who pay for office expenses by personal funds are subject to the same accountability mechanism and must file all receipts…on a monthly basis with the exception of kilometrage, business meals, personal cell phone and parking expenses.”
According to the proposed changes, the list of exceptions to the disclosure rules governing the use of personal funds could grow to include “donations to community organizations, home office expenses, car rentals, training expenses, and event tickets paid for exclusively with personal funds.”
The new rules, however, also propose that members of council “must” use the city’s “printer of record,” a division of the clerk’s office, to produce all printed materials unless there’s a need to go with an external supplier. The previous policy allowed councillors to use outside printing companies, provided they obtained three quotes on jobs exceeding $7,500.
In 2007, auditor-general Jeffrey Griffiths investigated Mr. Ford’s expenses and found that the then-Etobicoke councillor retained the family company, Deco Labels and Tags, to produce printed materials at market value. Mr. Griffiths’ report notes that Mr. Ford failed to submit complete records on such purchases.
The policies governing the use of personal funds for office expenses emerged from Mr. Griffiths’ report, and have applied almost exclusively to Mr. Ford. Since 2008, when council began disclosing detailed expense reports largely in response to Mr. Ford’s singular focus on allegedly wasteful spending by his colleagues, only one other councillor reported using personal funds for an office-related expense. In 2009, Scarborough’s Chin Lee filed an invoice for $210 he contributed to a website created by a council faction opposed to former mayor David Miller’s fiscal policies.
Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, has reported spending nothing at all on his office, either with public or personal funds, since being elected last fall.
Special to the Globe and Mail