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Shantz submits audited expense report, MECAC drops case

Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz having submitted a new, audited expense report, her spending in the 2014 election won’t be subjected to a formal audit.

Members of the Municipal Election Compliance Audit Committee (MECAC) meeting Thursday morning were satisfied with the new paperwork, dismissing the application by Elmira resident Alan Marshall for a review of Shantz’s election filing.

“Requesting an audit will not provide any additional information. Any further action is not required,” said MECAC member Kevin Bambrick following presentations to the committee.

The sentiment was shared by all seven members, who voted unanimously in favour of dismissing the application.

“I believe the mayor in good faith dealt with it the way she thought was proper,” said Tom Jutzi of the original filing. “While it was a failure, it does not demonstrate bad faith.”

For Marshall, the new documents provided by Shantz just prior to the hearing were proof of his contention the mayor failed to file a proper election expense report. Among the issues he identified were the fact contributions to Shantz’s campaign exceeded $10,000, thus requiring an audit, and two associated businesses each contributed a $750 donation, thus exceeding the maximum allowable.

Shantz’s original election filing shows contributions to her campaign $9,475.39 (including $200 nomination fee) and expenses of $9,063.83, well below the spending limit of $22,625.75.

“Essentially, they have confirmed that her contributions are in excess of the $10,000 threshold,” Marshall told the committee, having quickly reviewed the new documents.

He noted that, even if now correct, the paperwork arrived well after the March 27 deadline, adding there have been problems with the election expenses of half of Woolwich’s six-member council.

“Three have done an exemplary job. Three have failed.”

Ward 1 Coun. Scott Hahn’s election filing was the subject of a MECAC hearing and is now being audited by a firm hired by the committee and township. Ward 3 Coun. Mark Bauman was temporarily removed from council for failing to file an expense report after being acclaimed to his seat, changes to the elections act having gone unregistered by both the candidate and the township clerk’s office.

In the case of Shantz’s filing, the committee was satisfied there was no deliberate attempt to hide anything. The new report was deemed adequate to fend off a formal audit.

“There was certainly no intent to misrepresent my expenses or donations,” Shantz told the committee, convening in Woolwich council chambers.

Surplus campaign contributions totalling $2,632.61 were accounted for in the wrong spot in the paperwork, leading her to believe the tally was below the $10,000 level that requires an audited statement.

When there was some question about her expense filing, she took her paperwork to an accountant for an audit.

“In hindsight, I should have done that from the start.”

Shantz accused Marshall of challenging her integrity, calling his application frivolous and vexatious.

A pair of public members who addressed the committee, however, said the issue went beyond whatever personal animosity may exist between the parties.

“This has nothing to do with personalities. It has everything to do with attention to detail,” said Richard Clausi of what he called the “sloppy reporting” in Shantz’s expense report.

While the committee did not weigh in on the personal issues at play, members did note that responsibility ultimately lies with candidates to submit proper records.

“The onus is on the candidate in all cases,” said committee chair Carl Zehr.

“The applicant was justified in bringing this forward,” said Larry Aberle, who supported the dismissal “even though I don’t think it’s minor.”

Following the decision, Marshall said he would be reviewing Shantz’s newly submitted documents.

“It was disappointing. This committee has not done justice to democracy,” he said, adding the hearing showed he was right to question the mayor’s expense report.

For Shantz, the quick decision was a relief.

“I believed I accounted for things appropriately,” she said, noting she was open about everything.

Henceforth, she’ll have all such documents reviewed by professionals, she added.

“I’ll get an audit whatever my numbers appear to be. Lesson learned.”

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