He wouldn't call it a "conspiracy," but it was an anonymous phone call that prompted retired Toronto teacher David DePoe to request an audit of Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti 's 2010 campaign – an audit that will be at the forefront Monday when a three-person committee debates whether to commence legal proceedings against the Ward 7 York West representative.
The compliance audit, released last month, said Mr. Mammoliti exceeded the authorized spending limit of $27,464.65 by more than 40 per cent, or just over $12,000.
Monday's meeting comes just a few days after another audit found that Mayor Rob Ford overspent his 2010 campaign limit of $1.3-million by 3 per cent, or more than $40,000. With Mr. Ford's hearing set for Feb. 25, Mr. Mammoliti's case could provide insight into how the committee will respond to the apparent overspending.
Mr. Mammoliti, known for being among the most eccentric of Toronto councillors, recently said he believed there was a conspiracy against him, one which led to his phones being tapped and him being followed. He said he was not yet in a position to provide proof. Reached by phone Sunday, Mr. Mammoliti declined to comment on the audit. His lawyer did not return messages.
Mr. DePoe was one of several people, in the spring of 2011, to suggest that Mr. Ford's campaign spending violated the provincial Municipal Elections Act, although it was a request from two other Toronto residents – Max Reed and Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler – that formally sparked the audit.
But in December of that year, Mr. DePoe said he received an anonymous call urging him to look into Mr. Mammoliti's campaign.
"I spent a whole day making notes and looking at things and photocopying all kinds of stuff," he said in an interview. "And I just did some quick math and I just thought, 'Geez, this is like way overspent.' "
Mr. DePoe, the 69-year-old son of late CBC reporter Norman DePoe, and an activist who played a prominent role in Yorkville's so-called Summer of Love for social change, said while it's true he and Mr. Mammoliti would not see eye to eye on many issues, he was not driven by any sort of personal grudge. He said his motivator, once he was pointed in Mr. Mammoliti's direction by the anonymous caller, was not left or right politics, but simply fairness.
"I tried to be as responsible and accurate as I could be. I'm not a nutcase. I just really wanted to see these people play by the rules and it's not fair, in my mind, if you can get away with overspending," he said.
Mr. DePoe submitted his request in late December of 2011 and the compliance audit committee approved it in January, 2012. He said photocopying records cost him about $120, but that's the total cost he has incurred because his lawyer took the case pro bono. He said he would not have been able to afford to proceed otherwise.
The audit was conducted by Bruce Armstrong and Glen Davison, who also looked into the Mayor's spending. The document said Mr. Mammoliti's campaign appeared to contravene the act in several ways, from exceeding the authorized limit, to contributions, campaign expenses and financial reporting.
It said some of the expenses were put on Mr. Mammoliti's personal American Express card, and either omitted or reflected incorrectly. It also said Mr. Mammoliti appeared to contravene the act with a number of expenses, from office rent to advertising to an internet connection.
The audit said Mr. Mammoliti's decision to run for mayor – before aborting that campaign and running for re-election to council – did cause some "accounting issues." It also said the campaign generally co-operated with the audit process.
The compliance audit committee is made up of chartered accountant Douglas Colbourne, former Elections Ontario CEO John Hollins and municipal-affairs lawyer Virginia MacLean.
Ms. MacLean said there is not a specific formula or criteria that determines whether the committee will move forward with legal proceedings.
"Submissions will be made to us and based on those submissions we will make a determination," she said in an interview.
In 2007, the committee voted to commence legal proceedings against Donald Blair. It did the same in 2008 against Keith Sweeney. Both ran unsuccessfully for Toronto city council in 2006.
A city spokesperson said charges did not proceed against Mr. Blair, while Mr. Sweeney pleaded guilty and was fined $500.
Few Ontario municipal audit cases have resulted in stiff punishment, although Mr. Mammoliti and the Mayor could potentially lose their jobs. Former Hamilton mayor Larry Di Ianni, who had been accused of accepting improper donations during the 2003 election, pleaded guilty. He agreed to make a charitable donation and write an essay on why it was important for candidates to strictly monitor campaign accounting practices. Mr. Di Ianna did, however, lose the subsequent election.
While Mr. Mammoliti made headlines with his conspiracy theory, it was not the first time in recent months he has done so.
Before the budget was passed a few weeks ago, Mr. Mammoliti made a last-ditch attempt to freeze taxes and make up the lost revenue with a temporary casino housed in a boat.
When he quit Mayor Ford's powerful executive committee on the same November day the Mayor was ordered removed from office – a ruling an appeal court would later reverse – Mr. Mammoliti said he made the decision at the urging of his constituents. He later said he stepped down from the committee to investigate the conspiracy.
Mr. Mammoliti won his 2010 race by 1,737 votes. He picked up about 44 per cent of the ballots cast. Nick Di Nizio finished second, picking up 3,601 votes and nearly 30 per cent.
Mr. Di Nizio said in an interview he believes the apparent overspending made a difference in the race.
Editor's note: Due to an editing error, an earlier headline on this online article included incorrect information about the amount overspent by Giorgio Mammoliti's campaign. Mr. Mammoliti exceeded the limit by $12,000, not $40,000. This online version has been corrected.