Toronto council rejects Jim Karygiannis’s bid to help developer and campaign contributor

Toronto council rejects Jim Karygiannis’s bid to help developer and campaign contributor

Toronto council rejected a bid Wednesday by Ward 22 Coun. Jim Karygiannis to allow for more time to consider reducing the development charges on a townhouse development in his ward built by a local developer and campaign contributor.

Karygiannis (Scarborough-Agincourt) brought the motion for a month-long deferral of the matter just three days after a court order returned him to the office he’d lost earlier in November over election-spending irregularities.

At issue was a complaint from Middlepark Estates about development charges on its development at 1231 Bridletown Circle, which they felt were too high.

Middlepark director Barry Waltman confirmed in a phone interview that he and his brother Daniel had both donated to Karygiannis’s campaign in June of this year when the 2018 campaign had been reopened to raise legal funds for Karygiannis to defend against a compliance audit.

Records show that each of them donated the maximum allowed by law — $1,200.

Barry Waltman said he never lobbied the councillor on the development charges issue but that Karygiannis had called him Tuesday night to inform him he was planning to move deferral of the matter at council.

“I did not initiate the call to the councillor. He caught me by surprise. He just wanted to inform me he was going to be doing this,” Waltman said.

Middlepark Estates had complained that the townhouse development was paying too much in development charges, arguing that the specific form in which the 90 townhouses were built meant they ought to be classified as apartment units and therefore charged at a lower rate than that for back-to-back townhouses.

The change to the classification would save the developer $723,580, but Toronto planning staff disagreed and recommended that the rate stay the same.

Karygiannis argued at Toronto council Wednesday that he and Middlepark ought to have an opportunity to convince councillors that they should overturn the staff recommendations.

“I would like the opportunity to speak to my colleagues and see if we can bring it forward,” he said.

“There’s a different way of building here that probably the developer would like to come and meet you and explain to you and either he pays or not,” said Karygiannis. “I’d like this opportunity to come speak to the councillors.”

City council didn’t support his deferral, with just six councillors and Mayor John Tory voting in favour. Council later voted unanimously to support staff and reject the complaint.

Responding to written questions, Karygiannis said that no one from Middlepark had asked him for help on the development charges issue and the Waltman brothers did not communicate that their donation to his campaign was related to advocacy on their behalf.

Waltman also said there was no link between the donations and Karygiannis’s advocacy.

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The donation from Waltman and his brother was listed on Karygiannis’s campaign filings as coming in on June 28, 2019 — part of more than $100,000 in donations that Karygiannis’s campaign had gathered over that month, to pay legal fees related to a compliance audit request for his 2018 re-election campaign expenses.

Karygiannis was removed from office this month by the city clerk over his election expenses but returned to council this week after a judge found changes to the councillor’s financial statements were made “inadvertently.” He still faces the compliance audit.

Jennifer Pagliaro

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

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