Jim Karygiannis, who lost his council seat over his 2018 campaign expenses, has asked the Superior Court to return him to office.
In an application filed Tuesday that names the city and clerk Ulli Watkiss, Karygiannis claims a financial filing was “inadvertently” modified by his forensic accountant.
That filing showed Karygiannis had overspent a strict campaign limit by nearly $26,000. Under the Municipal Elections Act, overspending the limit is punished by immediate removal from office. In announcing the ouster last week, Watkiss said she had no discretion in responding to the overspending.
Karygiannis is now asking the court for relief from the forfeiture of the Ward 22 (Scarborough-Agincourt) office he was re-elected to.
The violation of the act, which Karygiannis says stems from an error in his paperwork, centres on a $27,000 dinner Karygiannis claimed as an expense that is said in his original financial statement to have taken place two months after the election, in December 2018.
Receipts and invoices for that dinner as well as that original filing indicated it was a fundraiser at a Thornhill restaurant, for which 2,000 invitations and other materials were requested; 50 meals were ordered along with Greek wine, and $11,300 was invoiced by Campaign Support, a company run by pollster Nick Kouvalis, for “fundraising event services.”
The original statement came under scrutiny after the Scarborough Mirror and toronto.com reporter David Nickle reported on the extraordinary expenses and also contributions raised as detailed in Karygiannis’s March filing.
That led to a request this June from elector Adam Chaleff for the city-appointed compliance audit committee to examine the councillor’s expenses, including the dinner. After an audit was ordered, Karygiannis appealed the decision.
He was also allowed to reopen his campaign post-election in order to raise funds to pay for his legal expenses related to the inquiry. That also meant he had to file a supplementary statement.
In that secondary filing submitted this October detailing his expenses, that dinner and a $5,000 victory party were moved into the category for “parties and other expressions of appreciation.”
Each ward where candidates are running for election has a specific limit for that category. In Ward 22 for 2018 the limit was $6,120.80. The dinner, combined with the party totalled $32,083.50 — $25,962.70 over the limit.
“The modifications in the supplementary financial statement were inadvertently made by the applicant’s forensic accountant to reflect the applicant’s intended response to the pending compliance audit procedure,” Karygiannis’s application to the court reads, “which would permit the applicant to ask the compliance audit committee, and potentially a judge of this Court, to exercise their discretion concerning the potential forfeiture of office with a view to all of the surrounding circumstances.”
The application goes on to say that those modifications meant that the new statement, “on its face,” showed that Karygiannis had incurred expenses exceeding what is allowed under the act.
The supplementary statement, the application says, was prepared by Karygiannis’s forensic accountant and audited by his accountant.
The application does not get into more detail about what Karygiannis said was an inadvertent error or his intended defence related to the compliance audit.
It says that Karygiannis tried to “correct the error” in his supplementary statement on Nov. 7, the day after he was removed, but that he was told by the city’s lawyer that it wasn’t possible.
Karygiannis plans to submit his own affidavit evidence, the application says.
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He also applied for legal costs to be reimbursed if the application is opposed.
Brad Ross, a spokesperson for the city, said “Mr. Karygiannis, we understand, filed a court application … to set a date for a hearing on an urgent basis. We’ll await the outcome of that hearing before commenting on next steps.”
Karygiannis and Karygiannis’ lawyer, Michael Binetti, declined to comment.