Toronto's integrity commissioner says a $500-a-plate fundraiser for Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti violated the code of conduct and is recommending council impose the maximum penalty by docking him three months' pay.
Billed as "a night of good food and friends," the May, 2013, event was attended by more than 200 people, including city hall lobbyists and companies doing business with the city or in the councillor's North York ward, states a report released Thursday by Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper. Her recommendations will be considered by council next week.
In explaining her recommendations, Ms. Leiper notes a three-month pay suspension equals slightly more than $26,000 in gross salary – much less than the $80,000 the event raised.
Toronto lawyer Brian Iler, who filed the original complaint, said Thursday he also is prepared to take the matter to police.
Police would look at a complaint if it was brought to them, a spokesman for the force said.
Mr. Mammoliti received an $80,000 "gift" from the company that ran the event, money raised through ticket sales, the report says. The money, it says, is a violation of the section of council's code of conduct that prohibits councillors from accepting a "fee, advance, gift or personal benefit."
Mr. Mammoliti did not respond to requests for an interview, but in a three-page written statement released Thursday he urged councillors to defer any decision on the report.
Earlier this year, the North York councillor turned to the courts to try stop the investigation. If council considers Ms. Leiper's report, he intends to include the city in that court action, the statement says.
Mr. Mammoliti underwent brain surgery in April of last year and in a response to Ms. Leiper in a February letter he notes invitations were sent while he was in hospital by a relative "wanting to do something nice."
The councillor "suffered short-term memory loss and his recollection of 'anything' several months following his surgery was and still remains limited," the report states.
Guests who attended the event walked a red carpet and had drinks from an open bar while harp music played, the report says. The main course was beef tenderloin and there was a silent auction that included a "personal watercraft."
The investigation found that staff in the councillor's office helped organize the event, sending invitations, designing tickets, arranging for music, flowers and security and following up on RSVPs from guests, often during work hours. In some cases, staff also "revised invoices" to remove references to the event, the investigation found.
In one case, a $5,000 invoice to an individual registered as a lobbyist with the city was issued by the company that ran the dinner for a December "community promo event" rather than for the May dinner, documents included in the report show. Another lobbyist invited to the dinner received three different versions of invoices for $5,000, with the third issued the morning after the dinner in the name of a different company.
"Can you please give me a call as soon as you can," said a e-mail written by a staff member of the lobbyist to a staff member in Mr. Mammoliti's office the morning after the dinner. By lunchtime, the councillor's staff member sent an e-mail with a revised invoice attached.
Responding to Mr. Mammoliti's comments about the role his illness played in the event, the report has this to say:
"While these factors certainly merit the sympathy and concern and well-wishes that would accompany a health scare … none of these features remove the Councillor from the responsibility not to accept gifts which are outside the exceptions in the Code of Conduct."