A detailed look at the $27,000 dinner that lost Jim Karygiannis his job on city council

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A detailed look at the $27,000 dinner that lost Jim Karygiannis his job on city council


Receipts for a 2018 dinner that has cost former Scarborough councillor Jim Karygiannis his job suggest there was Greek wine flowing, pasta, racks and lamb and cake for some 50 people.

That and the rest of the more than $27,000 in expenses spelled out in invoices that Karygiannis’s campaign filed with the city’s elections office are now in the spotlight after the city clerk removed him from office, saying he violated campaign finance rules by overspending by nearly $26,000.

Receipts and invoices attached to the dinner filed with the city’s elections office show the campaign paid more than $20,000 on consulting fees, including $11,300 to the company run by pollster Nick Kouvalis for “fundraising event services,” as well as just over $4,000 for the dinner itself — including wine and a three-course menu — and more than $1,700 on silver-foiled invitations and other printed materials.

The purpose of the dinner is a key factor in Karygiannis’s removal from office.

In an initial financial filing made in March, Karygiannis listed the dinner as a fundraiser. Karygiannis himself signed a cheque for $4,032 to restaurant Santorini Grill in Thornhill with the memo line reading: “Fundraising.”

In expense filings submitted to the city, none of the money Karygiannis raised for his campaign is specifically connected to the dinner.

His removal was announced Wednesday, just over a week after Karygiannis made additional financial filings that listed both the $27,083.50 dinner event and a $5,000 victory celebration under a different category: for “parties and other expressions of appreciation.”

All candidates are allowed to spend money thanking campaign workers. That spending is subject to strict limits.

In the case of Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt, the limit for such parties and shows of appreciation was $6,120.80 in 2018, the clerk said Wednesday, meaning Karygiannis’s updated filing showed he had overspent that limit by $25,962.70.

It’s not clear why Karygiannis moved the expense from one category to another.

Karygiannis told the Star on Wednesday there was a “clerical error” with the campaign paperwork and that he intends to fight his removal. He declined to comment Thursday for this story on the advice of his lawyer.

This June, elector Adam Chaleff complained to the compliance audit committee about several aspects of Karygiannis’s initial campaign expense filings, including the dinner, which took place in Dec. 2018, two months after the election, according to the filings. The city committee granted his request for an audit. That process is still ongoing.

Chaleff said he was concerned Karygiannis had spent $27,000 on what was said to be a fundraising dinner while his filings don’t show any money raised tied to that dinner.

Most spending for fundraising events is not subject to expense limits.

According to the invoices, Karygiannis spent thousands of dollars promoting and planning the event.

There’s no suggestion that any of the businesses or individuals billing the campaign for services broke any rules.

The bulk of the spending for the event went to two places.

First, there was $11,300 invoiced by Campaign Support, run by Kouvalis, submitted Nov. 19, 2018 — a month before the dinner — for “fundraising event services.”

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Reached by phone, Kouvalis refused to say what, if anything, he knew about the dinner. “We don’t discuss our client work,” he said.

The second largest expense was billed by Margot Doey-Vick, with a private address in Ottawa, for $10,000. On the invoice, she lists work including “drafting, revising and finalizing fundraising letter/invitation” as well as “arranging for the pickup of donations and delivery of tickets” among other fundraising related jobs.

Doey-Vick was a long-time member of Karygiannis’s staff in Ottawa when he was a Liberal MP, according to a transcript of a farewell speech he gave in the House of Commons in 2014, and previously did paid work for Karygiannis’s city hall office, including helping with correspondence in 2016, according to his office expenses posted to the city’s website.

She was also a former financial agent for the Scarborough-Agincourt Federal Liberal Association, according to a story from iPolitics, and pleaded guilty in 2018 to Canada Elections Act offences for failing to provide the chief electoral officer with the association’s financial transactions return on time and for submitting a document that didn’t “substantially” provide information required under the act, the Commissioner of Canada Elections website says. She was fined $1,000.

Doey-Vick, who is listed as the chair of a veterans group in Ottawa, couldn’t be reached for comment for this article.

A separate invoice for Geko Graphics and Printing Inc. shows costs of $1,751.50 for printing 2,000 silver-foiled invitations, 2,000 pieces of letterhead and 2,000 “promotional envelopes.”

A man who answered the phone at the business said he remembered doing printing work for Karygiannis’s campaign — there were several invoices from the same company — but that he didn’t recall that specific event and didn’t retain the files for what was printed.

Lastly, the restaurant bill came to $4,032 for what appears to be eight bottles of Victory I Agiorgitiko wine at $40 a bottle, 12 bottles of Victory II Moschofiler wine at $40 a bottle and 50 orders of “Package #3.”

According to the restaurant’s website, which offers menus as numbered packages for special functions, the third such package as it exists today is a set-course menu at $47 a head starting with several dips and bread, then a penne with rose sauce, followed by a choice of Greek or caesar salad, and then a main course of halibut, chicken supreme, surf and turf or rack of lamb, and ending with cake and coffee or tea.

According to the receipt, the bill was printed at 10:42 a.m. on Dec. 21, 2018, the day the dinner was said to have occurred in Karygiannis’s initial financial statement.

An email from the restaurant’s management — a name was not provided — confirmed they held the dinner for Karygiannis but declined to comment further, citing Karygiannis’s privacy.

With files from David Nickle

Jennifer Pagliaro

Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags





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