After insisting for weeks that he's prepared for any scrutiny of his campaign expenses and contributions, Mayor Rob Ford has asked a court to delay a formal review of his books, citing provisions of the election laws that set out a timetable for compliance audits.
In a brief filed with the Ontario Court of Justice, Mr. Ford's lawyer, Thomas Barlow, said council's compliance-audit committee erred when it ordered an audit of the mayor's campaign books on May 13. He's requested that the court set aside that decision until late September, 90 days after Mr. Ford officially closes the books on his campaign on June 30. Mr. Barlow also notified the court that he may submit additional documentary evidence.
"Our objective is to ensure that whatever should be done will be done in a streamlined and cost effective way," Mr. Barlow said yesterday, noting that the extra documents to be filed with the courts will "explain the questions that have been asked."
The three-person committee was responding to requests from Toronto residents filed in response to a Globe and Mail investigation of Mr. Ford's campaign finanacing. During the May 13 meeting, the members - an accountant, a lawyer, and a municipal elections officer - dismissed a similar argument by Mr. Barlow.
The requests, as well as another the committee will review next week, allege Mr. Ford incurred election expenses before filing his nomination papers and received corporate contributions in violation of a City of Toronto ban on such donations. None of the allegations has been proven or scrutinized by a qualified auditor, and Mr. Ford has steadfastly insisted that he broke no rules.
One of the individuals who asked for a review expressed confidence the process will lead to an audit. "His Bay Street lawyers may delay the inevitable, but Rob Ford's day of reckoning will come," Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler said.
Bernard Nayman, an accountant and veteran compliance auditor, warned that this legal move maybe be the first of many, as Mr. Ford will have numerous opportunities to challenge the compliance-audit process in the courts. Under the Municipal Elections Act, a compliance auditor has a mandate to review all aspects of the campaign's finances, and the process could take well over a year.
Citing a similar drama that played out with Vaughan mayor Michael Di Biase between 2007 and 2009, he said, "This could go on until the next election, as far as I'm concerned."
Because the mayor has asked for a judicial review of a city committee's decision, the city will incur legal costs to respond to Mr. Barlow's application. Previously, Mr. Ford, through his lawyer, has said he will pay for legal and accounting costs out of his own pocket.
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