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Toronto Mammoliti faces police investigation over fundraiser

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti speaks to the media as he leaves the Etobicoke Civic Centre for lunch, in Toronto, on Tuesday, August 12, 2014. Councillor Doug Ford was served with a notice a defamation from Police Chief Bill Blair last night.

Matthew Sherwood/The Globe and Mail

Toronto city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti faces a criminal investigation from the Toronto Police's financial crimes unit over an $80,000 fundraiser held for him in May, 2013.

The investigation follows an overview of the case by an independent lawyer hired by the city, which then referred the matter to the police.

An investigation by the city's integrity commissioner revealed that the 250 guests for the $5,000 a table fundraiser included prominent lobbyists and companies that pursue city contracts. The report found that the fundraiser, a red carpet affair featuring beef tenderloin, a harpist, and a six piece band, violated council's code of conduct by seeking gifts that were not permissible. Council's strict code of conduct contains specific rules for appropriate behaviour and contact with lobbyists and businesses, the result of recommendations from an inquiry that were implemented since Mr. Mammoliti became a councillor.

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In July, 2014, council approved its toughest possible sanction, a three-month suspension of pay worth $26,000. Mr. Mammoliti did not attend council's session in August, citing illness.

He has taken legal action against the integrity commissioner, saying the investigation was biased.

Mr. Mammoliti denied wrongdoing, and argued the event was a personal matter that did not affect the public interest. He was not immediately available for comment, but told the CBC earlier on Monday, "I'm not worried about it at all."

The York West politician has represented the area at the municipal or provincial level since 1990.

With less than six weeks until the Oct. 27 municipal election, Mr. Mammoliti faces his most difficult council race. Two recent polls put challenger Nick DiNizio in a statistical tie with the high-profile incumbent, suggesting it is one of the key council races to watch.

Mr. Mammoliti, who endorsed Doug Ford for mayor on Friday, has other challenges. A court case is ongoing for five non-criminal charges of violating the Municipal Elections Act related to his finances in the 2010 campaign, when he allegedly overspent the limit by 44 per cent.

He is also embroiled in other controversies. In February, 2013, he was found to have accepted $275,000 in personal loans from developers. The councillor argued the financial agreements had no relevance to his job as councillor. In October, 2013, CBC reported that he and councillor David Shiner received below-market rent for two bedroom suites at a midtown apartment building owned by the developer Greenwin. The CBC also reported that at least one Greenwin executive attended the $80,000 fundraiser in May, 2013.

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The councillor became a close part of the Ford inner circle over the past term. He often played the role of attack dog for the mayor, and in his position sitting next to Rob Ford in council chambers, he would give the thumbs up or down to how mayoral allies should vote on key items.

His council challenger Mr. DiNizio argues that the news about a criminal investigation is further evidence change is needed in the ward.

"There's a lot of questions to be answered," he said in a phone interview.

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