The City of Toronto's integrity commissioner has opened an investigation into a municipal councillor following a CBC News report earlier this year about a $5,000-a-table fundraiser held on his behalf.
Giorgio Mammoliti, who represents Ward 7 in northwest Toronto, is being investigated under the city's code of conduct for elected officials, which prohibits councillors from receiving gifts or benefits connected with "the performance of his or her duties of office."
City integrity commissioner Janet Leiper told Mammoliti she is forging ahead with the inquiry in a letter last week to his lawyer, a copy of which was obtained by CBC News.
Mammoliti has until Dec. 18 to respond, Leiper says in her letter.
Her investigation was triggered by a complaint by Toronto attorney Brian Iler, who said Tuesday that "the rules are very clear."
"You can't raise money except in very limited circumstances," Iler said. "End of the day, I don't think Mr. Mammoliti belongs on city council. He hasn't got the desire to play by the rules."
Iler's complaint cited two CBC News reports from last May about the Mammoliti fundraiser. The reports revealed that several hundred people attended the event at the Royalton Banquet Hall in Woodbridge, just north of Toronto, with tickets costing $5,000 for a table of ten.
The invitation to the event said Mammoliti and his family had become "the subject of political and personal attacks on numerous occasions" owing to his "continued dedication to the mayor and the administration."
"These unfounded, unjust attacks have taken their toll on him financially and my family on a personal level as well as creating unnecessary distractions for his office staff to deal with," said the invitation, written by Mammoliti's son Michael.
"I am seeking your support for my father so he can continue to fight the good fight at Toronto City Hall and not be held back by the financial burdens these attacks have brought on."
Iler's complaint says that kind of language makes it clear the fundraiser was "linked directly to Coun. Mammoliti's activities in his capacity as a councillor" and therefore violates the code of conduct.
Two weeks before the fundraiser, Leiper herself sent out a memo to city councillors warning them about holding public fundraisers or accepting contributions.
The invitation to the Mammoliti fundraiser appeared to address possible concerns, saying "we have obtained legal [advice]" and any financial contributions "will not be in any way a conflict."
In a subsequent statement to the Toronto Star, Mammoliti called the fundraiser a celebration of "my recovery from my recent health concerns," a reference to brain surgery he underwent last spring.
Big-time lobbyists attended
Mammoliti initially fought the request for an investigation, saying there weren't enough grounds for a complaint, but the integrity commissioner ruled against him.
Neither the councillor nor his lawyer immediately replied to calls for comment on Tuesday afternoon.
Among the attendees at the May fundraiser were two city hall lobbyists: Paul Pellegrini, president of lobbying firm Sussex Strategy Group, and Jamie Besner, a partner at Sussex.
At least one senior executive from property management and development company Greenwin Inc., which manages buildings owned by Toronto Community Housing and which is Mammoliti's landlord on an apartment he leases, was also in attendance.
CBC News was unable to confirm whether the Sussex lobbyists or Greenwin exec contributed to the $5,000 price per table. None of them returned calls at the time.
If the integrity commissioner finds Mammoliti breached the city's code of conduct, he could be officially reprimanded or penalized up to 90 days' salary.