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Hamilton city council votes to charge mayor with violating election act

The mayor of this southern Ontario city will have to explain his campaign donations to a judge.

City council made legal history Monday, voting 12-1 to charge Larry Di Ianni with violating the Municipal Elections Act.

The decision came as vindication for citizen activist Joanna Chapman who has fought for nearly two years, even selling family heirlooms to finance a court battle, to see the election of 2003 scrutinized.

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"I'm very happy to see they were prepared to make what must have been an incredibly hard decision," Ms. Chapman said. "I'm sure that they will make the right decision in court."

Ms. Chapman's lawyer, Eric Gillespie, said he believed the Hamilton council's decision is a first for Ontario.

"I don't think in Ontario history this has ever happened, that a sitting mayor has actually been charged by his own council," Mr. Gillespie said.

In a speech to his solemn colleagues after the vote, Mr. Di Ianni said he was pleased that the issue is out of the political arena and before the courts to be judged solely on the facts.

"I will deal with the legality of this in the court of law," Mr. Di Ianni told CHCH-TV. "I will take my lumps, if I have to take my lumps."

Mr. Di Ianni has already refunded nearly $26,000 in donations from his 2003 mayoral campaign after his own investigation and a two-part audit ordered by the court.

A judge could fine Mr. Di Ianni or even order his removal from office unless he was found to be acting in good faith and the errors were unintentional.

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Word of the charges came just hours after Mr. Di Ianni announced he would seek re-election this fall.

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