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Perrelli campaign clouded by investigation
Integrity report on possible misuse of public funds won’t be ready before election
May 27, 2014
Kim Zaraour

An integrity commissioner, investigating the behaviour of Richmond Hill Ward 2 Councillor Carmine Perrelli, has his work cut out for him.

At a meeting last night, councillors clearly spelled out several areas of concern they want examined regarding questionable spending by Perrelli, who is running for the mayoral position in the upcoming election.

Fellow councillors Greg Beros and Nick Papa, however, say the integrity inquiry is a waste of money.

Amberley Gavel Ltd. was enlisted by the town earlier this month after residents raised concerns about Perrelli’s townwide mailout survey criticizing the mayor and others on council — paid for, without authorization, with taxpayer funds.

The integrity commissioner service presented an interim report to council this week, including an email trail [see sidebar What’s in The Report] showing Perrelli ignored town staff and carried out the mailing without their approval and split the cost of printing to keep it within his purchasing card limit.

Nigel Bellchamber, one of the principals at Amberley Gavel, said his integrity commission service could not complete the process of the end of May necessary because it’s an election year, and thus a full report would have to wait until after the new council is sworn in.

Instead, an interim report asked council to clarify the breadth of the commissioner’s review and to more clearly identify the specific matters encompassed in council’s complaint.

At a council meeting May 12, after hearing concerns from a large number of residents, councillors launched a formal complaint under the council code of conduct questioning whether Perrelli had authority to use his councillor budget for a townwide mailing rather than just a mailing within his ward.

In the interim report, Bellchamber noted three other possible areas of concern, and asked councillors if they wished the commissioner to investigate them. Specifically,

• Whether or not Perrelli was authorized to access the town’s corporate mailing account discount rate of 11 cents per piece rather than 16 cents per piece, despite not having the approval by authorized staff;

• Whether or not Perrelli was authorized to direct Canada Post to process the mailings using the corporate account, despite not having approval;

• Whether or not Perrelli was authorized to split the cost of printing into two amounts, given the full cost of printing was in excess of the maximum $4,000 allowable limit for the town’s purchasing card.

Last night’s motion, presented by Ward 4 Councillor David West and passed by a majority of councillors, confirmed those matters were part of council’s complaint as alleged breaches of the council code of conduct.

“Clearly, there is some concern about this in town and I would very much like to make sure that the integrity commissioner has the information they need to go forward,” West said.

Two councillors, Beros and Papa, voted against the motion. Beros’ concerns focused on procedure.  

The complaint form was not filled out properly, he said, and did not make clear who contravened what rule.

“I recognize members of council are not getting along and just want to smear each other but if we have processes to follow, then follow the process.”

He said he would like The Liberal to write about “how does council get off not filling out proper forms ... sending the integrity commissioner on a wild goose chase,” adding “there is a group on council who can do no wrong”, the whole situation is silly “and everyone should just grow up”.

He called the integrity complaint “an unbelievable waste of taxpayer money”.

There is nothing in the expense policy restricting a councillor from spending his budget on printing and postage, he said, and no documentation, outside of overt campaigning, that limits what a councillor can and cannot say in a mail-out, he said. What is considered campaigning? “Vote for me” or “if I’m re-elected” might be considered as such.

Many residents questioned whether Perrelli’s April townwide newsletter and a similar one delivered last fall dealing with his “survey”, were really electioneering using town funds.

Michele Bussieres, whose letter prompted the integrity complaint by council, said the newsletter made her angry.

“This piece of garbage was produced and mailed to me using my — and my neighbours’ — tax dollars ... Let’s call a spade a spade. These so called ‘survey’ mailings are nothing but campaign materials for a councillor who is a declared candidate for mayor. I look to you and the council to act and to stop this appalling misuse of tax dollars.”

“Residents may be upset,” Beros said, “but the question should be asked, is it wrong? Is it against the rules?”  

It may not have been past practice to mail townwide, but it’s by doing things differently that progress is made, he said.

“Just because no one’s done it before, why does that make it wrong?”

Ward 5’s Papa also spoke out against the integrity complaint.

Given the integrity commissioner won’t be able to provide a report before the start of the newly elected council’s term, he said, “we should probably drop it completely and pick it up the next time round. To proceed with this knowing we don’t get an answer, to me, it’s useless.”

Perrelli was not part of the vote, having declared a pecuniary interest and leaving council chambers.

 To read the interim report by the integrity commissioner and supporting exhibits, visit:
Listen to the discussion at council here:



 Excerpts from exhibits attached to integrity commissioner’s interim report:

EXHIBIT 1: Correspondence between the councillor and the town clerk confirming that an expenditure for a contemplated townwide mailing will not be authorized.
 Apr. 28, 2014 11:06 a.m
 Madam Clerk,
 I would like to do a mail-out through Canada Post in compliance with the council expense policy paid by my council constituency account. May I be given authority to use the corporate mailing account discount (11 cents per piece) so as to avoid paying the regular rate (16 cents per piece), saving the taxpayer 5 cents per piece?
 Councillor Perrelli
 Apr. 28 11:27 a.m
 I cannot authorize the use of the town’s corporate postage account discount that you are wanting to send townwide. As I mentioned to you, the staff report that was before committee at their March 17 meeting was deferred to the May 12 council meeting and that report and policy addresses both newsletters and mailings. Under that policy, a member is not permitted to send a newsletter nor any other mailing outside of their ward, even though those mailings are being paid for through constituency accounts. Given this matter is before council in two weeks’ time, my recommendation is that you do not proceed with a townwide mailing until a decision by council. Processing mail through Canada Post utilizing the town’s account requires sign-off by Stephen or myself and we cannot authorize the use of that account for a townwide mailing.
Donna McLarty, town clerk
EXHIBIT 2: Email correspondence between the councillor and the commissioner, corporate and financial services, also confirming that the proposed townwide mailing costs will not be approved.
 Apr. 29, 8:29 a.m
 Good morning commissioner Miller,
 As you are aware, last fall I sent out a newsletter/survey townwide. I promised that I would report out the results of that survey. The results have been tabulated and ready to be mailed out townwide. I will once again be sending a newsletter to the residents of Ward 2 consistent with the newsletter policy that is currently in place. I will be sending this correspondence to the remainder of the town consistent with the council expense policy currently in effect. The rules indicate I must have permission to get the town mailing discount of 11 cents per piece (as is available to all other departments of the town) as opposed to 16 cents per piece. Granting permission will save the taxpayer $2,000. The taxpayer thanks you for your attention to my request on their behalf.
 Councillor Perrelli
 Apr. 29, 11:18 a.m
 Good morning councillor,
 It is my understanding that Ms McLarty addressed this matter yesterday; specifically that there is a staff report on this very topic that was before committee of the whole on March 17 and is coming back to council May 17. I note that comments from the survey have been up on the web for some time and that a survey summary has also been posted. The mailing and newsletter policy will be debated in less than two weeks’ time and the survey material is available electronically. I stand behind the clerk’s sound decision and reasoning, and I will not be instructing her or Mr. O’Brien otherwise. You should NOT proceed with a townwide mailing until council has decided on this topic.
Dean Miller
 Apr. 29 11:43 a.m.
 Commissioner Miller,
 The new policy that is to be debated is not in effect at this time. Therefore until it is debated you are unreasonably denying me the same opportunity as others. The issue is how much it will cost the taxpayers. I urge you to consider your actions as your decision will cost the taxpayers an extra $2,000. The literature has been printed and will be going for delivery tomorrow. Your commentary as to my website etc. is not your concern and is not the issue. I did the exact same thing last fall and you applied the cost to my account.
 Councillor Perrelli
 Apr. 29 12:08 a.m.
 Unless so directed by council, who are all aware of the subject staff report that is in process, the proposed expenditure will not be authorized.
Apr. 29 12:26 p.m.
 The policy that will be debated in two weeks is irrelevant. My request is based on the current policy in effect. I insist that you or your staff sign the forms in order to apply the policy consistently and save the taxpayer $2,000. You are preventing me from performing my duties as an elected official operating within the policies passed by council.

 Councillor Perrelli