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Mayor Ford drops appeal, agrees to audit of campaign expenses

Mayor of Toronto Rob Ford speaks at an announcement at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport in Toronto, March 9, 2012.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

After months of legal attempts to block a compliance audit of his campaign finances, Mayor Rob Ford announced Thursday that he will drop an appeal planned for next week and allow a city-appointed forensic accountant to pore over the expenses of his 2010 mayoral run.

"We wanted to have a new hearing in court at the first available opportunity and save taxpayers' expense if the court decided an audit was unnecessary. It now appears that the way to have this matter addressed fully without delay is to proceed with an audit," Mr. Ford said in a statement released by his office.

"Everything during the campaign was done in good faith with the intention of complying fully with election law. We will co-operate fully with any auditor appointed by the City."

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Toronto resident Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, who filed the initial complaint raising questions about Mr. Ford's campaign finances, said he was somewhat surprised by the decision, but added that he thought the mayor's legal case for an appeal was weak.

"We think it's the right decision and we hope it indicates the beginning of his co-operation with the audit process," Mr. Chaleff-Freudenthaler said.

The move comes almost a year after The Globe and Mail first reported that a company that controls the Ford family business holdings advanced $77,000 for early campaign expenses. Under Ontario election rules, municipal candidates are required to seek loans at fair market rates from recognized financial institutions. With the appeal now waived, Froese Forensic Partners, an accounting firm retained by the clerk's department last November, will begin the painstaking work of scrutinizing the expenses, contributions and financing arrangements of the campaign. Under the rules governing such reviews, the compliance auditor will examine all transactions, not just the one that triggered the initial complaint.

Ken Froese, the firm's principal, has had previous experience with politically charged compliance audits. In 2008, he spent two months reviewing former Vaughan mayor Linda Jackson's 2006 campaign finances, identifying numerous contraventions of the Municipal Elections Act. An Ontario appeal court described his final report in that case "as comprehensive, neutrally framed and factual."

Special to The Globe and Mail

Editor's Note: Linda Jackson is a former mayor of Vaughan. An incorrect first name appeared on Friday.



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