Toronto city councillor Jim Karygiannis has been removed from office over election overspending, but he denies wrongdoing and wants his seat back.
The Scarborough councillor, who had previously been a federal member of Parliament, was informed Wednesday afternoon by the city clerk that his victory in the 2018 municipal election had been vacated. He is barred from running again municipally until after the next election, in 2022.
City clerk Ulli Watkiss explained in a statement that her decision was based on financial information Mr. Karygiannis had filed in relation to the 2018 race, which showed him spending massively in excess of what is allowed under one provision of the Municipal Elections Act.
“The act does not give the city clerk any latitude or discretion on this matter,” Ms. Watkiss wrote. “Mr. Karygiannis is in default of the act and is disqualified from being elected or appointed to any office until after the 2022 municipal election.”
In response to a request for interview, Mr. Karygiannis sent an e-mail saying there had been a “clerical error” in his financial paperwork. He said he had been in contact with his lawyer and auditor to correct this error, which he did not identify.
“I look forward to being reinstated as the City of Toronto councillor for Ward 22,” he wrote.
Mr. Karygiannis was a long-time federal politician, first winning a seat in 1988 for the Liberals and retaining it for 26 years, when he switched to municipal politics. He won his campaign for councillor in 2014 and again in 2018.
He was not inside the power circle around the mayor but sat on the board of the Toronto Transit Commission, where he pushed for an extension of the Sheppard subway, and was vice-chair of the city’s general government and licensing committee, where he advocated for the taxi industry.
Mr. Karygiannis’s overspending was related to something called “parties and other expressions of appreciation” after an election is complete.
Under the Municipal Elections Act, each candidate was permitted to spend a maximum of $61,207.95 on their campaign. Of that, candidates were permitted to spend 10 per cent – approximately $6,121 – on postelection “parties and other expressions of appreciation.” According to Ms. Watkiss, citing Mr. Karygiannis’s audited financial statements, he spent $32,083.50 – nearly five times the maximum allowed.
Mr. Karygiannis’s financial statement – available online – shows that he paid for a $5,000 “victory party after voting day” and then had an “appreciation dinner” in December, 2018, that cost a total of $27,083.50.
According to Ms. Watkiss, Mr. Karygiannis’s staff will be permitted to continue to work on constituency matters, reporting to her as city clerk. She said that council will decide at its next meeting, later this month, how to fill the seat. A by-election is possible, as is an appointment voted on by councillors.
In his own statement, Mayor John Tory called the situation “unfortunate … for everyone involved, including the councillor, his office staff, the city clerk and the residents he was elected to serve.”
“Councillor Karygiannis worked hard over the last five years at City Hall to serve the residents of Scarborough-Agincourt,” Mr. Tory said. “I will be working to make sure those residents continue to be well-served by the city."