By Stephen Vance, Staff
Ray McHugh, a 2014 mayoral candidate who finished third behind now mayor Barb Clumpus, and former councillor Jim McPherson, has requested an election expense audit of McPherson’s and Clumpus’ campaigns.
A staff report presented to council at their June 22 meeting includes allegations from McHugh that Clumpus and McPherson under-reported their expenses in an effort to avoid an audit.
Mayoral candidates in Meaford were allowed to spend just over $16,000 for their campaigns, and while McPherson’s reported expenses amounted to $9,462.85, and Clumpus reported expenses of just $6,362, McHugh, who himself reported a miniscule $732.59 in campaign expenses, is convinced that his primary opponents are hiding expenses.
“In review of the financial statement submission of Mr. McPherson, it seems that expenses are significantly understated,” said McHugh in his written request for the audits. His written request for an audit of Mayor Clumpus’ campaign expenses followed a similar format to the McPherson request, and suggested that “It would appear that there was intent to keep reported expenses under $10,000 to avoid having an audit performed.”
McHugh claims that the amounts reported by both McPherson and Clumpus for campaign expenses such as website, travel costs, signs and printed material are untrue.
Mayor Clumpus issued a statement in response to McHugh’s request for an audit.
“I take the statements made by Mr. McHugh very seriously as they appear to question my integrity and honesty and that of my campaign Treasurer who, in fact, is a retired partner of Ernst and Young LLP and a life member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario. I refute these allegations and accordingly have delivered to the Clerk a letter from the Treasurer of my campaign which contains a point by point rebuttal of the allegations,” said Clumpus. “The process of adjudicating these applications is mandated by the Municipal Act; and is now underway through the office of the Clerk of the Municipality. I have complete confidence in the process and that my campaign expenses are, indeed, compliant with the Municipal Act.”
When contacted by The Independent for comment, McPherson said that the audit request was unexpected, and unnecessary.
“Usually when you ask for an audit it is because there is obvious flagrant over spending or receiving of donations that are inappropriate. In my campaign, there is no evidence of that at all,” McPherson told The Independent in an email response.
Procedures are in place to handle such a request. A joint compliance audit committee with members from neighbouring municipalities will hold a hearing to determine if an audit should be conducted, and if an audit is deemed necessary an auditing firm will be hired to conduct an audit.
Should an audit be conducted, and no issues are found with the campaign expenses of McPherson and Clumpus, McHugh could be on the hook for the costs associated with the audit.