Friday September 29th, 2023 - 01:49:53 AM

New Developments with Audit - Did the Mayor Lie?
Austin Wright, December 28, 2007

The mayor of Ottawa was recently arrested to face unproven charges that he promised a job to a competing candidate if he withdrew from the campaign. There's no telling how widespread this kind of practice might be, but at least the appropriate authorities are taking allegations of electoral impropriety seriously in other places.

In my opinion, anything that hints of interference or obstruction with a democratic electoral process or an inquiry held under the Public Inquiries Act (such as the recent compliance audit) could have rather significant repercussions. Since I've been (allegedly) wrong before, I wouldn't want to speculate that anything of substance might have been discovered, but the first impressions are rather damning.

New evidence suggests things may not have happened the way the auditor said, but to date he has not responded to our inquiries. Under the Municipal Elections Act, he's conveniently immune from any legal proceedings seeking damages for acts done in "good faith." Perhaps he thinks this exempts him from scrutiny also. It is not my intention to act as a full-time ombudsman to ensure democratic principles have been adhered to in Chatham-Kent, but nobody currently does that job here in an official capacity.

In the recent compliance audit, Mayor Randy Hope claimed that he had "no idea" that mayoral candidate Mary Lee was running prominent advertising bearing his official campaign picture and urging people to vote for him instead. As a result of this denial, both candidates were cleared of wrongdoing, and all the money Mary Lee spent endorsing her opponent did not have to be claimed on Hope's campaign.

The auditor ruled that two candidates can pool resources in this manner and avoid the individual spending and contribution limits. In fact, Bernard Nayman told council that no limits whatsoever applied to Lee's spending, since it was "Mary Lee the person" and not "The Mary Lee Campaign" doing the spending. So now we have two Mary Lees running around town according to Nayman. As soon as Hope admits knowing about the ads though, all the legislated limits apply.

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, Hope's campaign picture in Mary Lee's advertising tells a story suggesting that Mary Lee had Hope's permission to include his photograph in her ads, which couldn't have happened if Hope "didn't know" about it. More germane is the fact that Lee's ads were placed by somebody the auditor determined to be authorized to act on behalf of Hope's campaign. In a delightful conversation with Mary Lee in March, she claimed to be lying unconscious in the hospital at death's door when her ads were placed, and denied purchasing any advertising at all during her campaign.

In other words, the same person who placed campaign advertising for Hope, with his permission, must have also placed Mary Lee's ads containing Hope's photograph, that required permission to use. Hope denied knowing this was happening right under his nose. It looks like the mayor is either stupid for being unaware what his authorized campaign helpers were doing, or else he lied to the auditor to evade the consequences of accepting campaign contributions in excess of the spending limit using the tag-team endorsement scheme they concocted.

It's difficult to reconcile this dilemma, but there are few alternative theories with better promise. The auditor conveniently chose the most improbable option. That Hope would still not know how those ads got there 10 months after the election, when they were reproduced in the audit applications, is patently ludicrous. Wasn't he curious enough to ask or thank somebody?

Hope's helper who placed Mary Lee's endorsement advertising has admitted on previous occasions that like some of us, he doesn't always know what he's doing next - but we can't seriously believe that he forgot placing some extra advertising when interrogated by the auditor. We need to question whether this audit was even conducted in good faith, since the results certainly have the appearance of being tainted. Unfortunately, council hoped the audit would clear the air, but the haze around Hope's campaign activities is thicker than ever.

...more, click to see the giveaway


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