A Toronto councillor is vowing to take the city to court after council voted to impose the strictest penalty it has against him for receiving $80,000 from a fundraiser with city hall lobbyists and to look into calling in the police.
Council voted on Wednesday to dock Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti three months' pay – about $26,000 – after a scathing report from integrity commissioner Janet Leiper found that a $500-a-plate event thrown in the councillor's honour last year violated the city's code of conduct rules. Council also went a step further, deciding to hire outside counsel to investigate the possibility of criminality in the matter, and whether to refer the issue to Toronto Police.
Mr. Mammoliti, who launched a legal action against Ms. Leiper to try to stop her investigation, continued to proclaim his innocence after the decision, and said he plans to add the city to his list of defendants.
"You can call in the lawyers. You can call in whoever you want," the councillor said. "At the end of the day, I'm confident I have done nothing wrong. I'm confident that my staff, who were acting on personal time, did nothing wrong."
Ms. Leiper's report, released last week, found that Mr. Mammoliti received an $80,000 "gift" from organizers of a May, 2013, fundraiser, which violated prohibitions in the code of conduct against accepting "a fee, advance, gift or personal benefit."
More than 200 guests attended, including lobbyists, their clients, and companies doing business with the city, the report said. It also found that in addition to helping organize the event, the councillor's city-paid staff also helped "revise invoices" given to those who bought tickets to remove references to the fundraiser.
Mr. Mammoliti, who had brain surgery last year, responded to Ms. Leiper's investigation in February by saying that he "suffered short-term memory loss" and is limited in his recollection of events.
He reiterated that on Wednesday, and alleged that the investigation and council decision were politically motivated.
"You tell me how a guy who's got his head cracked open with brain surgery can break any laws or policies. Ask yourselves that question," he said.
"Ask yourselves about the politics involved with this. They will stoop to no level. They will go after people that are almost dead, in their deathbeds, to prove their point."
But Councillor Joe Mihevc, who moved the motion to accept Ms. Leiper's recommendation to dock the councillor's pay, and also to hire criminal law experts, said the decision sends a strong message to the public.
"The message that council sent was that we regard the integrity of council and each member in very high regard," he said.
He said the images Ms. Leiper showed on Wednesday of two $40,000 cheques Mr. Mammoliti received from organizers of the event were particularly unsettling.
"Those two cheques on the screen showing that money passed hands from an organization that took money from developers and lobbyists and passed it onto councillors – that's a pretty damning picture," he said.
Toronto lawyer Brian Iler, who filed the original complaint with Ms. Leiper, said he was happy with the decision.
"It goes to show what one citizen can do, doesn't it?" he said. "This should not have been swept under the rug, and today we did not sweep it under the rug. It got dealt with and the full penalty imposed, and that's just great."
With a report from Elizabeth Church