Monday, July 19, 2010 8:54 PM
Councillor Doug Holyday has won a partial victory in his court battle against the city and two councillors who received taxpayer-funded reimbursals for nearly $100,000 in legal costs.
In a decision released Monday, Divisional Court ruled that city council acted outside its authority in 2008 when it voted to cover legal fees racked up by two councillors forced to undergo a compliance audit of their 2006 election expenses.
The three-judge panel concluded that since Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7 York West) and Adrian Heaps (Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest) incurred the costs as candidates, not councillors, they weren’t eligible for a taxpayer-funded reimbursement.
City solicitor Anna Kinastowski warned council that the courts would likely rule that way before the vote.
“They broke the law here,” Mr. Holyday said of city council. “The court’s now voided that bylaw. That means that council should retrieve the money. I’m going to make sure that they do. I’m going to put that right to council.”
The city paid $45,330.40 in legal fees, plus $19,427.30 in taxes in Mr. Heaps’s case. It forked over $36,598.87 in legal costs, $15,487.50 for the fees of an appraisal service and $22,320.63 in taxes in Mr. Mammoliti’s.
However, the court stopped short of ordering Mr. Mammoliti and Mr. Heaps to pay back the money themselves. The judges simply quashed the by-law authorizing the payments.
“We won,” Mr. Mammoliti’s lawyer, Peter Greene, said. “Every lawyer acting for the individuals told him [Mr. Holyday] he was going to lose … my client is going to seek legal costs against him personally.”
Mr. Heaps declined comment except to point out that he “wasn’t even privy to any of this” because he recused himself from the council votes on the matter. Mr. Mammoliti and Sandra Bussin, the third councillor named in Mr. Holyday’s action, recused themselves as well.
Mr. Holyday asked the court to overturn council’s decision to fund a libel lawsuit Ms. Bussin filed against the publisher of a local newsletter, Ward 32 News.
The court sided with city council and Ms. Bussin, but said that if the Beaches-East York councillor wins damages and legal costs she should pay back the city.
The city has reimbursed Ms. Bussin $7,700.96 for legal fees so far in this case, which is ongoing.
Mr. Holyday, the Etobicoke councillor who paid for the legal challenge out of his own pocket, is asking the court to cover his costs. The court gave all parties 30 days to submit written arguments on costs if they can’t come to a mutual settlement first.