Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti wants taxpayers to cover more than $48,000 in legal bills he's accumulated in his fight against conflict of interest charges.
The councillor was docked three months' pay earlier this year by his fellow councillors – the highest fine ever levied – after a scathing report from Toronto's integrity commissioner found that a $500-a-plate event held in 2013 in his honour broke city rules.
As well as the penalty, which amounts to about $26,000 in lost pay, council voted to hire outside counsel to investigate whether to refer the issue to police.
Mr. Mammoliti is continuing to fight through the courts to have the ruling quashed and has filed three sets of legal bills to the city seeking reimbursement for the costs, according to a staff report to be considered by city council on Thursday.
Under city policy, councillors are automatically eligible to have their legal fees in Code of Conduct cases reimbursed to a limit of $20,000. So far, Mr. Mammoliti, who was re-elected in October, has submitted invoices that total $14,831.25, which have been paid, the staff report says.
Mr. Mammoliti now is seeking payment for an additional $33,644.87 in legal costs – $28,476.12 over the limit. Any payments would come from council's general expense budget, the report says.
The report to council does not include a recommendation, but Councillor Joe Mihevc – who at the July meeting moved the motion to hire outside counsel – said paying the extra fees would set a bad precedent.
"I think that would be pushing it," he said Monday, calling the existing policy with its $20,000 "contained, limited and reasonable."
Covering additional expenses would send the wrong signal to other councillors who might feel they can hold similar fundraising events, he said.
A request for comment from Mr. Mammoliti's lawyer, Morris Manning, was not returned.
The integrity commissioner's investigation found Mr. Mammoliti received an $80,000 "gift" from the company that ran the event, money raised through ticket sales.
The payment, it found, was a violation of the section of council's code of conduct that prohibits councillors from accepting a "fee, advance, gift or personal benefit."
Billed as "a night of good food and friends," the May, 2013, event was attended by more than 200 people, including city hall lobbyists and companies doing business with the city or in the councillor's ward, the integrity commissioner found.
Mr. Mammoliti, who underwent brain surgery in April of last year, responded at the time to the findings in a letter that noted the invitations were sent while he was in hospital by a relative "wanting to do something nice."