Corp Comm Connects

‘Council heard everyone’: Richmond Hill Regional Coun. Perrelli remains on hook for $140K debt for his ‘free’ blue bin event
June 14, 2022

Eight months after the City of Richmond Hill requested Regional Coun. Carmine Perrelli to pay for an event he ran last summer, his fellow councillor asked city council to reconsider that decision.

At the June 8 meeting, Oak Ridges Coun. Greg Beros proposed to scrap the nearly $140,000 debt that Perrelli owed to the city for the cost of the recycling and compost bins he gave away to residents at his “Enviro Day Event.”

After a closed-session followed by an open discussion, a majority of council members came to the conclusion that Perrelli remains on the hook for the debt -- $139,623.30 to be exact -- turning down Beros’ motion.

“I'm glad that council heard everyone. But I think this has gone on long enough and that we need to move forward with collecting the debt,” resident Cris Sturino told the Liberal.

Sturino is among a number of residents who wrote to council and the Liberal in opposition to Beros’s proposal.

"This whole issue has been fabricated by my opponents who have to resort to misinformation and malicious deception in order to deflect from their own inactivity and lack of service to residents," said Perrelli who recused himself from deliberations and voting on the motion.

The proposal came to council about a year after the fallout of Perrelli’s well-publicized multi-day events last June when he promised a free exchange of blue and green bins for the residents but did not cover the expense through sponsorship.

It was four months later when council ruled that Perrelli should reimburse the city $140,000 while freezing his events account which contains $55,709 until the deficit is funded. Perrelli and Beros voted against it at that time.

In his June 8 motion, Beros said the request for Perrelli to cover the cost was “unlawful” and “ultra vires,” noting the city possessed “no lawful authority whatsoever to impose a debt obligation” on the regional councillor.

“I brought this motion forward with one thought in mind to in the end save tax dollars … There are a number of cases that have gone to the court that have said that an overexpenditure cannot be put on the back of an elected official,” Beros told his council colleagues.

Perrelli campaign clouded by investigation

Beros also cited a lawsuit between Perrelli and Richmond Hill involving his newsletters eight years ago as an example in which he said the town ended up paying for legal fees for both parties. In 2014, the Liberal reported that Perrelli conducted a town-wide survey criticizing the mayor and others on council paid for -- without authorization with taxpayer funds.

“It’s a huge concern to me that someone like a councillor would think it was so easy to just write off $140,000 -- firstly that council never approved and secondly that was a self-promotional event,” resident Sturino said.

Another resident Martha Forge said the motion was "wrong in so many ways" and that the taxpayers should not pay for Perrelli's "poor judgment and shameful self-promotion."

Despite the support from fellow councillor Tom Muench, Beros failed to persuade the rest of council to forgive the debt -- which if not paid by Perrelli -- would be funded by the city's tax-supported reserves, according to a staff report from last October.

Coun. Castro Liu said he cannot support the motion because it would set a precedent and that it’s “abusing the system” and “not fair to all those who abide by the rules.”

Speaking of the council decision, Perrelli said "it will be the taxpayers who ultimately the pay the price for their political gain when this issue gets in front of a judge where their dirty American-style political attacks will hold no weight."

In addition to the close $140,000 cost for purchasing the bins, Perrelli's event incurred over $17,800 of equivalent staff time for assisting with the events. Staff time was not charged to his events account under the council events guidelines, according to the October report.

Perrelli also spent more than $11,000 of the allocated budget for his expenses as a regional councillor on paid advertisements on social media to promote the blue bin events and related matters from last April to last October, according to his ad library on Facebook.

On one of his paid videos on Facebook, Sturino said Perrelli told her the event would “not cost the taxpayers a dime” in response to her question on the councillor’s Facebook page. The Liberal cannot locate Sturino’s comment and the response.

At the same meeting, Perrelli also put forward a separate proposal to ask the city to develop a plan to include free green/blue bin home delivery and pickup service. He subsequently withdrew the motion after an hour-long heated debate when several councillors took issues with the lack of financial details and feasibility.