The audit committee that later this month will determine whether to commence legal proceedings against Mayor Rob Ford has voted to do just that with one of his former allies.
The three-person committee Monday voted to begin proceedings against Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti after a compliance audit found he exceeded his 2010 campaign spending limit of $27,464.65 by more than 40 per cent, or $12,000.
Another audit, released late last week, found the mayor overspent his campaign limit of $1.3-million by 3 per cent, or more than $40,000.
The committee on Monday swiftly rejected Mr. Mammoliti's request for an eight-month adjournment so another auditor could look at his file, before directing the city solicitor to retain outside counsel. The external lawyer will determine whether to proceed with charges, though a decision might not come for some time.
Mr. Mammoliti, the Ward 7 York West representative, appeared surprised by the ruling and declined to speak with the horde of reporters inside the committee room.
Jack Siegel, one of Mr. Mammoliti's lawyers, called the decision "disappointing." He had argued the campaign did not set out to overspend and said a major factor in the decision to prosecute must be "deliberate flaunting of rules."
Morris Manning, Mr. Mammoliti's other lawyer, criticized the committee process.
"I think it was unfair because we didn't have a proper opportunity to answer, first of all, the auditor's report, where it took months to prepare that report and we were given a very short period of time … in which to respond to it," he said.
The audit request was filed in late December, 2011, by retired Toronto teacher David DePoe. Mr. DePoe, who had also publicly expressed concern about the mayor's spending, told The Globe and Mail last week that he made the request of Mr. Mammoliti's campaign after receiving an anonymous phone call.
Paul-Erik Veel, Mr. DePoe's lawyer, who is handling the case pro bono, told the committee it did not matter whether Mr. Mammoliti meant to overspend and he urged members to commence legal proceedings.
After the committee's decision, Mr. DePoe told reporters he was pleased.
"I think they've seen the significance of these apparent [contraventions] and they want to do something about it," he said, adding a campaign cannot be fair if one side drastically overspends.
John Mascarin, a municipal law expert with the firm Aird and Berlis LLP, said it could be several months before outside counsel decides whether to move ahead with charges.
When asked if there was any message for the mayor's camp to take away from Monday's decision, Mr. Mascarin said the two cases are quite different, particularly when it comes to the percentage by which they overspent.
The audit of Mr. Mammoliti's campaign said it contravened the act in several ways, from exceeding the authorized limit, to contributions, campaign expenses and financial reporting.
It said some of the expenses were put on Mr. Mammoliti's personal American Express card, and either omitted or reflected incorrectly. It also said Mr. Mammoliti appeared to contravene the act with a number of expenses, including on office rent and advertising.
Auditor Bruce Armstrong told the committee the campaign made "many mistakes" and would have benefited from an in-house accounting expert.