By RTH Staff
Published October 22, 2010
A group of citizens has called a press conference to decry media coverage of mayoral candidate Larry Di Ianni's election campaign.
The group, which is led by Kevin MacKay and includes a number of current and retired McMaster University professors a former university President, argues that the local news media have not adequately reported the facts of Mr. Di Ianni's 41 charges and six convictions for accepting illegal campaign donations during his 2003 election campaign.
They plan to hold a press conference and rally today, October 22, 2010, 5:00 PM outside City Hall. The list of signatories includes: Alvin Lee, former President of McMaster University, Dr. James Quinn, a Biology Professor at McMaster, Kevin MacKay, a Professor at Mohawk College, Dr. Todd Bulmer, Jennie Rubio, an Editor at Oxford University Press, George Sorger, a retired Biology Professor at McMaster, Dr. J.P. Xu, an Associate Biology Professor at McMaster, Dr. Martin Daly, a Biology Professor at McMaster, Dr. Graeme MacQueen, a retired Religious Studies Professor at McMaster, and former Waterdown councillor Dave Braden among others.
The press release also notes that Di Ianni was not banned from running in a subsequent election, whereas Matt Jelly, a candidate for Ward 2 in the current election, was banned from running in 2006 after failing to submit a financial report for his 2003 mayoral run.
According to Mary Lou Tanner, Mr. Jelly's campaign manager, he filed no report because his 2003 campaign had no expenses and accepted no donations. "This was an error and will not recur."
For this election, Jelly is not accepting corporate or union donations, and made his finances available on October 18, 2010. Ms. Tanner added, "The Matt Jelly 2010 Campaign is not affiliated with the press conference today."
After Hamilton Indymedia (now defunct) published an article by John Milton in 2004 that raised questions about Di Ianni's campaign donors, local bookseller Joanna Chapman asked Council to audit Mr. Di Ianni's finances.
Council voted against the audit, so Ms. Chapman hired lawyer Eric Gillespie and launched a private citizen's lawsuit under the Municipal Elections Act to force an audit. Chapman ultimately spent $30,000 of her own money on the suit. In the meantime, Di Ianni returned $26,000 in questionable donations.
Justice Timothy Culver concluded that reasonable grounds existed for an audit and ordered City Council to audit Di Ianni's books. The City hired accountant Ken Froese, who eventually found 41 irregularities.
City-hired lawyer Timothy Wilkin identified 41 alleged violations of campaign finance rules, but ultimately brought just six charges to court in a plea bargain.
Di Ianni pleaded guilty to the six charges and Justice Anton Zuraw ordered him to make a charitable donation of $4,500 and write an essay detailing his experiences and lessons learned, which was then published in Municipal World in October 2006.
Justice Zuraw concluded that Di Ianni's campaign finance violations were unintentional and pointed out in his decision that the financing rules seemed to have led to much confusion. "Experienced accountants and lawyers, even seasoned politicians, have had problems and these problems have been brought to light by virtue of the doggedness and, some would say, zeal of Ms. Chapman as she pursued her understanding of the public interest."
In 2006, Di Ianni lost re-election narrowly to Fred Eisenberger. In an August 2009 interview with The Hamiltonian, Di Ianni dismissed suggestions that his loss was significantly related to the campaign finance issue.
[Joanna Chapman] didn't help but she wasn't the fatal blow. The fatal blow was the seven days of 'Corruption at City Hall' reportage just before the election by the Spectator, falsely targeting Sam Merulla. That issue splashed on me big time. We were doing rolling polls and the financing issue wasn't registering, but as soon as the Spec stories appeared, my numbers began to go down...as it was, I lost narrowly. I also took bad advice and didn't go after Fred on his vulnerabilities. He got a free ride and won. Good for him. Bad for me and the city.
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