Past CATCH Articles

 

 

Di Ianni not personally involved in illegal donations
November 27, 2006

Outgoing mayor Larry Di Ianni says he wasn’t personally involved in the receipt, recording and deposit of the illegal donations that plagued his 2003 election campaign. DiIanni includes the revelation in the essay he was required to write to fulfill probation conditions imposed by the courts when he pled guilty to six charges last August.

In the essay, published in the October issue of Municipal World magazine, Di Ianni writes: “I did not personally receive contribution cheques, did not record any of the names of contributors, did not deposit any of the contributions into the bank account and did not prepare the financial statements.”

Di Ianni does not reveal who was responsible for these activities, but he goes on to acknowledge he signed the financial statements and declares: “My lack of personal involvement does not, should not, and did not diminish in any way my responsibility for the accuracy of the filing.”

Two paragraphs later in the essay, Di Ianni advises other municipal candidates to ensure that their donations are “scrutinized by an assigned competent person” and says that “both an accountant and a lawyer will now be reviewing all contributions [to me] before they are banked.”

Di Ianni also writes that “I signed the statement 15 minutes before it was due in the clerk’s office; and, although I asked the accountant if everything was appropriate, I did not give myself the time to even scan the filing before submitting it. This was a huge error. If I had sat down with the appropriate people and made changes to the process or the expertise assisting me with the filing in a timely way, I would have done everyone, especially myself, a huge favour.”

The essay is titled “a hard act to follow but an essential one to adhere to”, a reference to the Municipal Elections Act that Di Ianni pled guilty to violating. In the first paragraph he alerts readers to the fact that “the judge overseeing the proceedings noted there was no intention to contravene the Act”, and this caveat is repeated later in the essay, and strongly emphasized in an editor’s comment that introduces Di Ianni’s article.

A section of the essay is devoted to explaining the rules laid out in the Municipal Elections Act. Di Ianni suggests that are “needed reforms” to the legislation, but only complains specifically about the failure to precisely define the term “as soon as possible” in reference to when illegal donations must be refunded.

The essay stresses that councils “must deal seriously” with citizen complaints about irregular donations and notes that the courts criticized Hamilton councillors “for not dealing with the substance of the concerns expressed.”

Di Ianni goes on to state that Hamilton city council “did not ask for legal advice when the concerns were first raised” and says that “I am convinced that if council had asked the city solicitor to explain the Act, council would have followed through on its responsibilities.”

The CATCH transcript of the July 2004 council meeting that voted 9-1 to refuse to order an audit of Di Ianni’s campaign finances does include comments from city solicitor Peter Barkwell as well as an explanation of the legislation provided by deputy clerk Salter Hayden who is also the city’s election manager.

Hayden prepared a five-page staff report detailing the requirements of the Municipal Elections Act and recommending that the council “decide whether the audit should be granted or rejected”. It says that the legal department was consulted in the preparation of the report.

Ward one councillor Brian McHattie asked Barkwell to explain the court process that might unfold if council rejected the audit request. Barkwell responded as follows:

"I'm at a small disadvantage here, because I don't have the wording of the Act in front of me but where an Act says that a Judge may make any decision the Council can make, the implication is that the Judge has the power to order the audit or not order the audit. Essentially, the Judge puts himself in the same decision-making capacity that this Council is in this afternoon. Once the Judge ordered the audit, I would expect the rest of the procedure of the Act would kick in and this Council would have to pay for the audit. Presumably the report would either come back to the Council or back to the Judge. I'm not quite clear on that, as I say, I don't have the Act in front of me. But, the appeal process which says the Judge can make any decision the Council can make makes it essentially what we call a trial de novo: the Judges can make all the same considerations you're making here, today and simply substitute his or her opinion for yours."

In response to further questions by McHattie about possible charges arising from an audit, Barkwell replied: “Well, it may be that the council would have a function in determining whether to prosecute after a report came back. But, to give you an answer to that, I really would have to have some time to look at the Act."

The meeting was held on July 14, 2004, twenty days after Joanna Chapman had written formally to council asking for an audit of Di Ianni’s campaign finances.

Much of the rest of Di Ianni’s essay in Municipal World comments on the six charges that he pled guilty to. In each case he explains what was illegal and how the donation should have been dealt with. The names of all the illegal donors are replaced by generic or fictitious substitutes “to preserve privacy”.

CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) updates use transcripts and/or public documents to highlight information about Hamilton civic affairs that is not generally available in the mass media. Detailed reports of City Hall meetings can be reviewed at www.hamiltoncatch.org. You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to info@HamiltonCATCH.org.

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