Scarborough-Agincourt Counillor Jim Karygiannis will face a compliance audit of his 2018 campaign expenses.
That was the decision from Toronto’s Compliance Audit Committee, which on July 2 ruled there were sufficient grounds to have an auditor go over Karygiannis’ election expenses. At the same time, the committee rejected a plea from Karygiannis’ lawyer Michael Binetti to adjourn the hearing until the end of July so he could prepare a proper rebuttal.
Binetti argued that Karygiannis had insufficient time to prepare a response to the complainant, Adam Chaleff, who had “months” to assemble his accusations that Karygiannis had over-spent on his campaign for city councillor by mis-classifying mailing expenses and a party as fundraising, and paying out $81,000 in honoraria after the election period.
“The meeting was held in circumstances that were unfair to my client,” said Binetti outside the meeting Tuesday evening. “Our objection was on the basis that there was a lack of procedural fairness in the process and on the basis that the applicant also agreed that we should be given more time to come back with a full response.”
Chaleff confirmed that he had no difficulty with an adjournment until the end of July. But the committee ruled that under the Municipal Elections Act, they were bound to rule on the application within 30 days of the application being filed.
Compliance Audit Committee Chair Isabel Meharry said in an interview that the committee was sympathetic to the fact that Binetti was unable to offer a proper response on behalf of Karygiannis, but had no choice in its decision.
“What I would say is that personally and as a representative of the city, we always want to make sure that everybody has an opportunity to put their best defense … so we were extremely sympathetic to wanting an adjournment. And if there was nothing else impacting us, we would have had it adjourned. But as it turns out when you read that section of the Act we were not allowed to go beyond 30 days,” she said.
Karygiannis has 15 days to appeal the committee’s decision. Binetti said that his client has yet to advise him on how to proceed. But he said given the detail of the allegations, it would be impossible to fulsomely respond in less than a month.
“The work is commensurate with the application, and simpler applications are easier to respond to,” he said. “An application that the applicant has had months to work on, and they’ve hired a premier law firm, and they’ve brought forward their full argument with cases, to turn around and just respond to that is not possible,” said Binetti. “It’s not fair to any candidate who is facing such a detailed and full set of allegations against them.”
Chaleff raised three concerns about Karygiannis’ campaign — which, with more than $217,000 in donations, was by far the best-funded councillor campaign of all 25 winning campaigns last year.
First, Chaleff flagged $81,000 in “honoraria” that were paid to supporters following the election period, and questioned whether those payments were actually compensation for work done during the campaign.
Second, Chaleff questioned whether a $13,611 mailing expense that was classified as a fundraising expense should actually have been an election expense.
And third, he questioned whether a Dec. 18 fundraising event that cost $27,000 was actually a fundraising event and not simply a volunteer appreciation party.
The committee ruled that those questions offered sufficient grounds to order a compliance audit on Karygiannis’ expenses. The audit will determine whether Karygiannis violated the Municipal Elections Act.
David Nickle is a reporter with toronto.com. Reach him via email: email@example.com