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Updated: Mon, 16 Jun 2014 08:29:26 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Joe Fontana fraud case: Lawyer says council can't oust mayor



With no legal mechanism in place to force him from office, some members of London city council want Mayor Joe Fontana to resign. Dave Chidley/Canadian Press

With no legal mechanism in place to force him from office, some members of London city council want Mayor Joe Fontana to resign. Dave Chidley/Canadian Press

London, Ont., Mayor Joe Fontana's conviction on three criminal fraud charges relating to his time as an MP is not — on its own — enough to force Fontana from municipal office, a lawyer told CBC News.

"There's no authority for it," said municipal law expert George Rust-D'eye, who is not involved in the Fontana case directly but was asked by CBC News for a legal opinion. "There's no recall provision to allow a council to throw one of its members out of office."

Fontana was found guilty last week of forgery, fraud and breach of trust for claiming $1,700 as a work-related expense, money that was used to pay for his son's wedding at London's Marconi Club. The court found that Fontana, at the time a Liberal MP and cabinet minister, also tried to make it look like the money was being used for a political event at the same venue.

Fontana said he would issue a public statement soon after the verdict. But so far, nothing has been released.

Several members of London council have said the mayor should immediately step down due to the serious nature of the offences. But Rust-D'eye says only a jail sentence can force Fontana from office.

Fontana is to return to court on July 15 for sentencing.

Coun. Joni Baechler is among a handful of council members who have asked Fontana to resign.

"Even if he decides to appeal, that's going to be a long period of time, and we still live with this circumstance," she told CBC. "So I don't think that's reasonable that he would stay even on a leave of absence."

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