Hurst’s election finances to be audited

By Joel Charron

Amherstburg resident Jason Lavigne says he’s happy with the election compliance audit committee’s decision to audit Mayor Wayne Hurst 2010 campaign expenses.

The committee, consisting of chair Yvette Jones and Eve Sigfrid and Michelle Kennedy, unanimously voted to look into Hurst’s campaign expenses Thursday night in council Chambers.

Lavigne, who after reviewing candidate expense reports filed a complaint with the town on June 6, made the request for an audit. Lavgine unsuccessfully ran for council during last year’s municipal election.

The driving force behind the complaint, Jason Lavigne speaks before the Compliance Audit Committee Thursday evening,

“I’m happy. The committee set out what they were suppose to do,”

said Lavigne. “I’m very interested to see the results of the complete audit.”

Lavgine said he estimates Hurst’s expenses to hovering around the $14,000 mark, while Hurst claimed $8.520.86.

Any candidate spending over $10,000 in an election campaign would have to have their financial report audited with the auditor’s report submitted to the clerk when the candidate files their financial statement.

Lavigne noted that his complaint is “very large compared to other” as he gave examples of other complaints filed in Niagara, Fort Erie and against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Lavigne is claiming that Hurst failed to claim numerous goods and services and as a result failed to submit the required auditor’s report.

Hurst’s newspaper advertising was a target of those claims. Hurst claimed $2,087.06 in newspaper advertising; Lavigne said this figure could be off by at least half.

Between the Amherstburg Echo and the River Town Times, Lavigne estimates Hurst spent $4093.33. Using the papers advertising rates last year, Lavigne said the pricing of ads in the Amherstburg Echo worked out to be $607.28, while spending $3,486 with the River Town Times for eight ads.

Lavigne also brought up the use of billboards. Lavigne gathered three estimates, the lowest being $1,367 for one sign. He claimed that Hurst used three billboards with the cost being $4,101.90.

According to Lavigne, Hurst said the expense report “clearly provides a spot” for phone and Internet charges. The candidate claimed $0 in this section.” Lavigne said he received two automated calls from Hurst’s campaign during the election, as did others he spoke to. He estimated the value of that at $600.

He also said that there was $0 claimed in the Internet section.  Lavigne estimates the cost of the website to be valued between $1,000 to $10,000.

He said for Hurst not to list that expense was “very blatant.”

Lavigne did give credit to Hurst for a “very well put together” campaign.

“I know that Mr. Hurst put together a pretty slick campaign,” he said.

Previously used lawn signs also have to be included in the report. Lavigne said he took basic counts of signs while installing his own and said he counted at least 250 signs, which would cost approximately $2,000.

Lavigne said that all candidates were advised by clerk Brenda Percy about rules of the campaign several times.

“He signed it knowingly stating it was true to his knowledge. I do not agree and I do not believe it was a true statement,” he said.

Lavigne added that he is not seeking any one outcome, which could be removal of office, but rather Hurst be held accountable. He also noted that he was a little disappointed that Hurst didn’t attend the Thursday night meeting, or have anyone speak on his behalf.

“I’m looking for him to be held accountable to the law. I do not write the law, I do not enforce the law,” said Lavigne.

Hurst did submit a written response, in which he called Lavigne’s complaint “trivial” and asked the committee to dismiss the complaint.

In a phone interview, Hurst said that the newspaper advertising figure of $2,087.16 is reported correctly. He said he paid $607.48 to the Echo and paid the River Town times $1,479.68, while adding he received a $500 credit for an advertisement that was an error on behalf of the paper.

As for the automated calls, Hurst said he paid the firm he hired $600 and paid it from a personal credit card, for which he has now requested a receipt.

“  This was paid by my personal credit card. I did not receive a receipt from the company but have now requested one,” said Hurst. “This was an honest, unintentional oversight that was not included in my financial statement.”

The website was done by campaign volunteers and no compensation was paid to any person or company for work done, he stated in his written response.

Hurst said he personally completed the financial statement and “takes full responsibility for the oversight.”

Hurst said he believes his critics are behind the audit request.

“These are my opponents and they will do anything to try and discredit me and put my name in a negative light,” said Hurst. “But nonetheless I’m the mayor here and I have my integrity. We will get through this and move this town forward regardless of what some individuals are trying to do.”

Hurst said he’s not worried about being removed from office, stating that they only remove people from office if you did something wrong deliberately.

“If there is anything that has not been reported it is simply an oversight, it wasn’t deliberate, it wasn’t intentional,” said Hurst. “After this has been completed it will be proven what I’m saying is the truth.”

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