Weeks after Jim Karygiannis was removed from his job as a Toronto councillor over an issue with his 2018 election expense filing, an Ontario court has ordered that he be reinstated.
“I find that Mr. Karygiannis acted in good faith with respect to the filing of the financial statements,” Justice William S. Chalmers wrote in a decision released on Monday.
The decision comes after Toronto City Clerk Ulli Watkiss told Karygiannis on Nov. 6 that he could no longer continue in his role based on a supplementary financial statement filed after the 2018 municipal election. Among the issues was thousands spent on a post-election party at Santorini Grill.
“The Act allows candidates to spend a maximum amount of money in an election. For Ward 22 in 2018, that total was $61,207.95, with a maximum of 10% – or $6,120.80 – to be spent for ‘parties and other expressions of appreciation’ after voting day,” the statement said.
“Mr. Karygiannis filed expenses under ‘parties and other expressions of appreciation’ shows that he spent $32,083.50, which on its face exceeds the expense limit by $25,962.70.”
City staff at the time said the clerk doesn’t have any discretion about the decision based on provincial law.
Shortly after the decision on Nov. 6, Karygiannis told Global News Radio 640 Toronto the filing was an error.
“At the advice of a forensic auditor, a clerical mistake was made. Something was filed in the wrong line and I’m suffering the consequences because of the advice of an individual that I followed,” he said, eventually filing a legal challenge.
TORONTO ELECTION 2018: Ward 22 Scarborough–Agincourt
When asked about the decision and legal proceedings, he simply said it has been “tough.”
“I want to thank the unwavering support… of my wife, my family and my constituents. I’m happy to be back. I’m looking to continue to work what I started,” he told reporters during a brief news conference Monday evening.
“Tomorrow we’re going back to work.”
On Monday, Chalmers wrote the penalties under the Municipal Election Act do not apply if the candidates was “acting in good faith.”
“In the initial financial statement, he disclosed the post-election party at the Santorini Grill. The amount spent was disclosed. The information with respect to the event was also disclosed in the spllementary financial statement albeit in a different section. I find there was no attempt to hide the expense,” the decision said.
“Mr. Karygiannis retained and relied on an experienced forensic accountant to prepare the statement.”
Despite the finding, Karygiannis’s expenses are still being reviewed by a compliance audit committee.
Chalmers noted the decision to “order relief from the forfeiture of the office” does not “affect the the committee’s obligation to continue with the compliance audit or the committee’s discretion to commence legal proceedings against Mr. Karygiannis following receipt of the auditor’s report.”
In response to the decision, the City of Toronto said “arrangements are being made” in order for Karygiannis to attend city council on Tuesday for its previously scheduled meeting.