Councillor Adam Vaughan is asking how campaign spending rules will be enforced during the next election, after Rob Ford escaped punishment this week for several apparent violations of election law.
On Monday the city's Compliance Audit Committee voted 2-1 not to take legal action against the mayor, despite an auditor's report that found he committed dozens of "apparent contraventions" of the Municipal Elections Act during his 2010 mayoral bid. The alleged infractions included exceeding the spending limit by three per cent, or $40,000, incurring expenses before he had registered as a candidate, and accepting an interest-free loan from one of his family's companies.
On Friday, Vaughan wrote an administrative inquiry to city clerk Ulli Watkiss asking what the implications of the committee's decision are for the 2014 election.
"When faced with apparent, if not actual, violations of the rules governing Municipal Elections in Toronto the committee has chosen not to prosecute," Vaughan's letter reads. "This calls into question many of the fundamental rules that govern campaigning in this city."
The letter asks Watkiss to report to council and the public before the 2014 race begins "with written guidance and clarification as to what exactly are the regulations... governing campaigning," particularly "the rules as they relate to spending and fundraising before a candidate is registered."
In an interview Wednesday, Vaughan said that he didn't believe Ford should have necessarily faced harsh punishment for his alleged infractions, but the committee's decision has left it unclear whether there are any consequences for violating election law.
"So many rules were broken, that it effectively says we have no rules," said Vaughan. "It creates so much ambiguity and so much opportunity for people to have unfair advantages."
"I want defined rules and an even playing field for everyone, so everyone knows what the rules are going in and everyone knows what the consequences are for breaking them."
One councillor is currently facing possible punishment for violating the elections act, however. On February 4, the committee decided unanimously to commence legal proceedings against Giorgio Mammoliti, after an audit found that he had overspent by $12,065, or 44 per cent of the legal limit, during his 2010 campaign.
If the prosecutor convinces a judge that Mammoliti broke the law, he could be slapped with a fine. It's also possible, although unlikely, that he could be removed from office or sentenced to jail.
Despite the committee's decision to start proceedings against Mammoliti, Councillor Mike Layton agrees that its inaction in Ford's case sends a message to potential candidates that they may not be punished if they fail to run a clean campaign.
"If we're not going to enforce the most basic election laws, why have them?" asked the councillor, adding that the allegations against Ford should at least have merited further investigation.
But Layton doesn't think a presentation from the city clerk like the one Vaughan is seeking would reveal anything new.
"What [staff] are going to confirm is no, you need to follow the law," he said.
The two members of the audit committee who voted to drop the case against Ford gave no reason for their decision on Monday.
But the mayor's lawyer had argued that Ford did his utmost to comply with the law any violations he may have committed were unintentional or so minor as to be inconsequential. Ford's attorney also said that the mayor had learned his lesson and there would be no point in taking further action.