- Stouffville’s Compliance Audit Committee has decided to pursue legal action against Former Mayor Justin Altmann and Council candidate Keith Singer over their 2022 campaign finance violations.
- The Committee initiated financial investigations into the campaigns during their meeting in June. The resulting audit reports were received and reviewed at a recent meeting on October 13.
- All financial documents related to the candidates’ campaigns were requested by the auditor, including invoices, bank statements, and copies of deposited checks. The audits, conducted by Lekadir LLP, were conducted based on the materials provided by the candidates.
- Altmann and Singer both declined to submit the required Form 4 financial statement, which serves as public disclosure of campaign donations, expenditures, and related financial activities. The Municipal Elections Act mandated that the form be submitted by March 31, 2023.
- Singer was also found to have conducted his campaign activities through a personal bank account. The Municipal Elections Act requires the creation and use of a standalone campaign account.
- Failure to provide Form 4 by the mandated deadline results in automatic ineligibility to run in a municipal election or fill a Council vacancy until after the 2026 election cycle.
- The Committee’s decision does not determine guilt or innocence, as those considerations are determined by the courts.
- If prosecution leads to a conviction, the candidates could also face fines of up to $25,000 and prison sentences of up to six months.
- Candidate Juliet Deonarain was also audited, but her offences were generally considered minor in nature. The Committee decided not to initiate legal proceedings against her.
Former Mayor Justin Altmann attended the October 13 meeting and provided a brief statement, reiterating his willingness to make any requested information available to the Committee. The auditor informed Committee members that Altmann had “significantly” self-financed his campaign, and surplus campaign funds would have been reimbursed to him. Although others provided him with donations, none of the contributions exceeded the $1,200 limit.
Altmann’s campaign expenses were also under $20,000, and no offenses were identified within that spending. “The money coming in matched the money going out,” the Committee was informed. His only violation was the failure to file Form 4.
Keith Singer was not in attendance; instead, he was represented by Altmann, who served as his agent but did not provide any statement to the Committee on Singer’s behalf. According to the auditors, Singer had “effectively no campaign,” making it difficult to thoroughly track the use of his campaign funds.
“I don’t think the campaign was significant…we’re talking less than $3,000 in contributions,” the auditor mentioned, saying that excessive spending or a resulting surplus was unlikely. Individual contributions to Singer’s campaign were all $300 or less.
While the audit reports did not identify any clear illegal campaign finance activity, the failure to file Form 4 and Singer’s use of a personal bank account led the Committee to vote unanimously to proceed with legal action against the two candidates.
Each audit cost $5000, resulting in $15,000 in costs for the Town of Stouffville. “The prosecution proceedings will also cost the taxpayers,” Mayor Iain Lovatt highlighted. “We have no option to not follow through with the [Committee’s] orders,” he noted “A [Council] motion will be forthcoming directing staff to seek repayment of costs.”
Paul Greenhalgh, the applicant who requested the audits, reiterated the importance of public access to the campaign finance information provided on Form 4 when addressing the Committee. Form 4 involves “crucial transparency and reporting requirements,” as explained in the audit reports, the absence of which raised obvious concerns for him and the Compliance Audit Committee members.
Greenhalgh expressed satisfaction with the Committee’s decisions. “Something is finally being done,” he told Bullet Point News. “The Committee clearly listened to and understood my concerns,” he added. “I would encourage more people to get involved in the democratic process and hold those who ask for our votes accountable for their actions.”