Etobicoke Councillors Mark Grimes and Justin Di Ciano have been charged by police with filing false campaign expenses following the 2014 election.
The charges for both were announced at the same time in a press release from the Ontario Provincial Police Friday morning. The pair has been under investigation by the OPP’s anti-rackets branch, which is in charge of probing complex fraud cases, after it received a request from the Toronto police in September 2017 to look into a referral from the city’s independent integrity commissioner.
Both allegedly did not disclose approximately $26,000 each in campaign expenses related to the 2014 election, an OPP spokesperson confirmed. The charges, under the Municipal Elections Act, are not criminal charges.
The charges, the OPP spokesperson said, are directly related to an allegation first reported by the CBC, that the two councillors had benefited from campaign polling and research totalling more than $40,000 that was paid for by a developer, Dunpar Homes, and not accounted for in their expenses.
Di Ciano at the time denied having polling paid for by Dunpar, CBC reported. Grimes called the allegations “unfounded.”
A prepared statement released Friday by Grimes’ lawyer, who is not identified, reads: “Councillor Grimes has done nothing wrong. An allegation has been made that he should have made additional financial disclosure for his campaign from four years ago. No such disclosure was required. There is no credible evidence to support the allegation, which was made for political purposes.”
A statement from lawyer Scott Fenton says Di Ciano “looks forward to setting the record straight on any alleged clerical errors in his 2014 campaign expense return.” It goes on to say: “The real offence here is the extraordinary waste of scarce government resources spent chasing down minor alleged oversights regarding a long-forgotten municipal election campaign.”
Both Grimes and Di Ciano were at a Friday morning meeting with other members of the Exhibition Place board, said Councillor Mike Layton.
There was no mention of the OPP charges at the meeting and both seemed in good spirits and left when the meeting ended around 9:30 a.m., said Layton, who declined to comment on the charges themselves because he didn’t know the details.
Asked if Grimes should recuse himself from appointments in the new council term until the case is finished, fellow Exhibition Place board member Councillor Jim Karygiannis said: “Everybody steps back when they face something. That will be up to Councillor Grimes and up to the mayor to decide what appointments to give him given the circumstances.”
Grimes, 57, was re-elected on Oct. 22 to the Ward 3, Etobicoke Lakeshore, seat with Mayor John Tory’s endorsement. Di Ciano, 40, did not run for re-election — which would have pitted him against his friend Grimes after the number of wards was shrunk to 25.
In 2016, the city’s integrity commissioner Valerie Jepson found Grimes had what she called “improper” dealings with developers after a 17-month investigation that did not include Dunpar.
Earlier, both Grimes and Di Ciano were at the middle of a controversial debate over the use of a strip of land in the Mimico-Judson area. At the urging of the two councillors, council and Tory approved the conversion of that land that would allow Dunpar to develop townhomes near what will be a noisy rail yard, against the advice of senior city staff and the provincial transit agency Metrolinx.
Penalties for both if they are convicted on the Elections Act charges include fines up to $25,000 each and being prohibited from running in the next two municipal elections.
They are scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 19.
With files from David Rider
Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags