Mayor’s audit ends with a whimper

 

By Aaron Jahn

Following the 2010 municipal election in Amherstburg, failed council candidate Jason Lavigne filed a complaint about Mayor Wayne Hurst’s financial returns, with the process coming to an abrupt end last week.

The committee had a rough start, with only two of the members, Chair Yvette Jones and member Eve Sigfrid attending.  The third member of the committee failed to show and Town Clerk Brenda Percy said she had no knowledge of Kennedy’s intention’s to not attend the meeting.   Following consultations with lawyer Ed Posliff, the committee members went forward with the meeting based on having enough members for a quorum.   Something many people in attendance questioned.

Repeated calls to Kennedy were unsuccessful

The complaint filed by Lavigne sparked an audit that had its final meeting on February 29, with the report presented to the committee hearing the complaint by Ferruccio Da Sacco of BDO Canada.  The report detailed a number of contraventions of the Municipal Elections Act, including filing a final financial report of $8,520.86. Actual costs, including full worth of items or services received at discount, in real dollars, was between $11,217.37 and $13,367.  Had Hurst reported the full amount, he would have had to seek a financial audit prior to filing his financial report.  The spending limit for the mayoral race was $22,000.

 

Mayor Wayne Hurst addresses the Municipal Elections Act Compliance Committee on February 29 at Town Hall.

Following the report and the follow up questions by the committee, both Lavigne and Hurst were given an opportunity to address the committee, with both giving impassioned speeches on their positions, with Lavigne expressing his concern over the lack of the third committee member and what he felt was pressure from council to drop the matter.

Hurst attributed his poor financial statement on losing his campaign manger late in the election and having never filed his own return before and reiterated his belief that these attacks are politically motivated.

“I wasn’t going to say anything, but I think it’s imperative that I take a moment to say a couple of things.  I just have to say to you, just simply, I want you to understand I love this town.  I have a tremendous passion for the town of Amherstburg, the people in the town of Amherstburg,” said Hurst.  “I can stand here and say to you that ignorance of the law is no excuse for failure to comply.  I will say through my elections, this is the first time I ever did my financial statements.  Rest assured in the next election, I will ensure that I use my accountant.”

During deliberations, the members of the committee seemed confused over some of the finer legal details.  With Jones having to seek instructions on how to put forward a motion.  In the end, Jones wanted to move to have the proceedings moved to the next level by pursuing judicial action against the mayor.  Sigfrid refused to support the motion and with that came an end to the proceedings. Without the third member to break a tie.

Lavigne however says that he is disappointed with the committee for proceeding understaffed and for what he believes was not interpreting their duties properly.   He also said under the MEA, he, or any citizen, has the right to press charges against the mayor.

“I’m disappointed that this committee would go ahead with two people instead of putting it off for a day to find out where the member was.  I think it was apparent that these three came in with an un-open mind and had her mind made up long before they showed.  I think that it spoke volumes, Mr. Hurst still didn’t apologize, still didn’t admit to anything,” said Lavigne.  “I’ll make the determination over the next few days if I want to pursue this. I have the option to file charges against Mr. Hurst in the court of justice myself.  Anyone in Amherstburg can file a charge against him; all that’s required is that you think there is a reasonable belief that a law was broken.”

 

 

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