The public will finally get to hear the results of the Compliance Audit into the campaign spending of Mayor Randy Hope. Bernard Nayman, the auditor hired by the municipality to probe alleged violations of the Municipal Elections Act, is set to present his findings to municipal council, likely during the October 29th meeting.
Details of the audit have not been published in the media, amid a maelstrom of litigation and threats. The nature of the auditor's findings is unknown at this time, but a Chatham This Week headline about the interim report published a couple of weeks ago, in a classic case of double entendre, stated that no wrongdoing was found. This is bizarre, coming from the one print media outlet that can usually be depended on to report things accurately without undue spin. The headline was both extremely misleading as well as accurate, depending on how it was interpreted, since the interim report did not include any findings whatsoever, it was just a progress report of the steps taken to date.
There is a substantial effort under way to discredit the applicant of the compliance audit request, and perhaps marginalize or otherwise explain any discrepancies that might be found. The media spin could make the difference in the public reaction over the outcome, so expect to see more smiling photo-ops arranged by the mayor's office in the coming weeks.
If no evidence of wrongdoing is found, the applicant could be forced to pay the audit costs, as well as issue a public apology to every involved party. However, if problems are detected, Hope could just explain them away as honest adding mistakes and walk away with a fine. At the other end of the scale, if Hope is found to have flagrantly violated the election rules, he could be forced to resign or be removed from office by the courts, plunging Chatham-Kent into a winter mayoral by-election.
The auditor had authority under the Public Accountability Act to subpoena evidence and witnesses, and is immune from any litigation that may result from the audit or his findings. The applicant, and the media, do not enjoy similar freedoms to report local political situations, so it will be up to council to receive the report and act in the best interest of the municipality, possibly without proper media scrutiny.
It makes one wonder what the final report might contain, because this site is already subject to threats to prevent the publication of the details about the audit or any other political involvement by those who may have played a role in the audit request coming about. The public may never find out if other media outlets are too afraid or banned from reporting the truth.