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“End Misuse of Ontario’s Municipal Election Act”
Addressed to: Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark and Springwater Mayor Don Allen
For more than four years, former Springwater mayor Bill French has been the target of an inappropriate investigation and prosecution under the Municipal Elections Act. After repeated investigations, his 2014 municipal campaign expenses were found to have been $5,149.18 UNDER his eligible campaign spending limit of $20,316.90.
On May 25, 2018, Forensic Auditor Ken Froese reported to the Oro-Medonte-Springwater Compliance Audit Committee. He explained that unfair advantage, lack of transparency and lack of integrity are the key issues in a compliance audit. He identified:
• No unfair advantage or undue influence by Mr. French during the 2014 campaign.
• No lack of transparency, with the apparent non-compliances with the Municipal Elections Act in plain sight and not hidden or obscured.
• No issues of integrity with Mr. French’s conduct during the campaign.
• No intent to mislead or misrepresent the incomes or expenses.
Mr. Froese said Mr. French co-operated fully with the audit process and provided detailed explanations as requested.
Nevertheless, members of the compliance audit committee voted to proceed with charges against Mr. French. Total dollar value involved in apparent non-compliances with the Act is $1,091.00.
Details of the compliance audit committee’s actions and the charges that were laid can be found at http://www.billfrench.ca.
Cost to the ratepayers of the Township of Springwater, who are obliged to pay the Oro-Medonte-Springwater Compliance Audit Committee’s legal, auditing and other expenses: approximately $310,000.
Legal defense costs to Mr. French: around $65,000.
These costs finally ended when all Charges were withdrawn on April 17, 2019 by the Prosecutor.
We believe Mr. French has been the target of an immense injustice that could set a precedent that will taint elections across Ontario.
We, the undersigned, believe that this legal action has been a misapplication of the Municipal Elections Act, which is supposed to punish real wrongdoing and deceit, not minor bookkeeping infractions.
We call on the Province of Ontario and Minister Steve Clark firstname.lastname@example.org to re-examine the Municipal Elections Act to determine what limits or changes should be made in relation to the power and conduct of compliance audit committees, to ensure that the Act is applied fairly and appropriately and
We urge Mayor Don Allen email@example.com and members of Springwater Township Council to take whatever action they may consider appropriate to end the prosecution of Mr. French.