The fiasco surrounding Municipal Elections of 2010 has not reached an end with legal action taken by councillors who faced an audit of their campaign finances. All four had taken illegal contributions, all four had breached the Municipal Elections Act and yet they claim to have had their names dragged through the mud because of the public audits examining their campaign finances. They now demand that their legal expenses be paid by the individual who requested the audit in the first place.
Ontario's Municipal Elections Act makes it very clear as to the maximum any candidate may accept from an individual or business. Accepting an illegal contribution is in breach of the Act, although prompt repayment of an over-contribution can safeguard a candidate from penalty. It is of great importance to note that the candidate can only escape facing a penalty for the illegal contribution, or if you prefer over-contribution, by making prompt return of illegal monies, that candidate is not exonerated of the breach itself. Two of the 'hurt' candidates have had previous experience with elections as candidates, and two are new to the game. One a school teacher and the other an 'entrepreneur', both it would seem have a good enough command of the English language. They all breached the Municipal Elections Act by taking illegal contributions and proved it by returning the money. Would they have done so for any other reason? The answer without a doubt is a loud no. So to claim their names were dragged through the mud is ludicrous, they did this to themselves. Having said this, they may have legal grounds for their actions.
Since Eleanor Lancaster first raised the issue of illegal contributions she has been allowed to walk away from answering the most important question. Why was she selective in her actions? Eleanor Lancaster intentionally left out the one individual who had the most illegal contributions, Brian McMullan. She had claimed to have made an error in filling her audit request in relation to both Tim Rigby and Andy Petrowski. Lancaster had attempted to file the audit request for both regional candidates at the City of St. Catharines Clerks' office. Yet Eleanor Lancaster was a regional councillor herself. Nothing at all about her excuses makes any sense nor is it based in logic.
There has been enough said in accusations that Eleanor Lancaster had selected those who were in favour of the Port development only. True Len Stack clearly supported the development and Brian Dorsey was a councillor who in 2006 had been with Tim Rigby to sign the whole thing and pass it. But hold it a minute now, Matt Harris was not in the group, he is new and his background was mainly showing involvement with health and community care issues. Matt Siscoe came to St. Catharines in 2006, one could say as a matter of the heart. He had met his wife in South Korea who was a St. Catharines resident as they were both working there. No connections to City politics and not even from the area. Both Andy Petrowski and Tim Rigby are and were supporters of the Port, though Petrowski was only a citizen making his usual presentations at council. Tim Rigby nursed the whole thing as a baby in his dying days in office as Mayor of St. Catharines who signed the whole thing late in 2006. Yet Lancaster gave both of them a free 'get out of jail' card! As I have said nothing makes any sense.
Eleanor Lancaster had to have gone through the financial statements of every candidate in the Municipal Elections of 2010, including mine. Heck the only thing I was guilty of was under-contribution. She had to have examined Mayor Brian McMullan's records and had to have seen that he had the most illegal contributions. Mayor Brian McMullan had over twenty years of political experience and to claim he did not know the rules would only be an insane lie. Instead Mayor McMullan never once made any real comment, he basically took the fifth and dropped it all onto his auditor. What or who gave Eleanor Lancaster the right to act as judge and jury?
Mayorgate has reported on this issue with four articles: Candidate Double Dipping Campaign Funds July 21st 2011, Double-Dipping Part Two (Part Deux) August 5th 2011, Selective Justice= Blind Justice September 12th 2011 and Legal or Illegal... Or simply give it back? March 6th 2012. From the first article it was made clear that whatever the excuse given each candidate had breached the Municipal Elections Act. True the Elections Act does allow a candidate to return the illegal contributions and escape any penalty, but only that, to escape any penalty. Returning the money does not exonerate the candidate or pardon the candidate from breach of the Act. Yet one important point has been intentionally side-stepped, and that is if the acceptance of the illegal contribution was made with full awareness of the Act's restrictions. When you consider the experience of someone like Mayor Brian McMullan and ex-Mayor Tim Rigby it is impossible to sell the notion that they did not know the rules, or did not look at the financial sheets that carry their signatures. Penalties for knowingly accepting illegal contributions are severe, and not only for candidates.
The Act that we have is there to set out rules under which we are required to conduct ourselves for a reason. Candidates have conditions and restrictions to abide by and so the donors. Penalties against donors who intentionally breach the restrictions placed on contributions also are severe. Judge Harris touched on this in his decision February 2012, but only touched it a little. If Eleanor Lancaster was out to crucify only Port supporters as Andy Petrowski claims, then why would she leave out Dan Raseta from any public comment. After all Dan Reseta was a Port Developer. Dan Raseta was a partner in the Port Dalhousie Vitalization Corp. and spent years fighting the community over the project to develop the lakeside village.
Dan Raseta is not new to donations to politicians, nor is he a virgin in the game of politics, yet he handed out more than one illegal contribution. These were Raseta's words as reported at the time by Matthew Van Dongen of The Standard, “It's not unfair, because those are the rules, we're very passionate about our community, so this is our way of participating in the democratic process.” As we all know now, no they are not the rules, and Dan Raseta had quite intentionally broken them. Still Eleanor Lancaster had not raised her voice in indignation against Dan Raseta. Candidates who received contributions from Dan Raseta's associated businesses included regional candidates Andy Petrowski and Tim Rigby, and municipal candidates Matt Harris, Len Stack and Mat Siscoe. Hold it a minute now... could it be that's the reason Eleanor Lancaster came after Sisco and Harris? Both were given contributions, illegal ones at that, by Raseta, is that the proof? Now sit down Petrowski no need to jump up and down with the “I told you so,” after all both you and Rigby were given illegal contributions yet Eleanor let you off the hook. Her excuse was an abomination to intelligence as she herself
was a former regional councillor.
To be fair to Dan Raseta's version on “those are the rules,” he was not only the one who dished out illegal contributions. Len Pennachetti with the development behind the new hospital provided illegal contributions to Mayor Brian McMullan, just ask Preston Haskell if he knows who Mr. Pennachetti is. Hotel owner Angelo Nitsopolous also gave double donations to Mayor McMullan as did John Rankin. Donors who knowingly give illegal contributions to candidates face equal and as severe penalties as do the candidates receiving illegal contributions. In our version of justice here in Niagara that equals to nothing at all. Of all the quotes one can use in relation to justice and its equality one stands out – 'SELECTIVE JUSTICE=BLIND JUSTICE' and that has been exactly the case here.
The electoral process is the cornerstone of our democracy, protected by rules and legislation to ensure fairness and equality. Accusations made by Eleanor Lancaster were based on fact, the financial returns signed by each candidate were proof enough. Yet the sheer notion that Eleanor Lancaster appointed herself judge and jury as to who faced the public questioning was repulsive. She intentionally left out Brian McMullan who had the greatest abuses of the legislation; she allowed two regional candidates Petrowski and Rigby off the hook with an unbelievable excuse in face of her own previous position as a regional councillor; and she did not at any time bring forward the information of abuse of legislation in relation to donors who
breached the rules such as Raseta, Pennachetti, Nitsopolous and Rankin. Nothing that Eleanor Lancaster did can face scrutiny under oath or examination with logic and fact.
Selective Justice always equals Blind Justice, and Blind Justice is No Justice at all. It is no more effective than banging a drum in a vacuum.
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