Woolwich councillor Scott Hahn won’t face legal action over his election expenses, as an audit committee opted Thursday not to send the case to a prosecutor.
The majority of the seven-member Municipal Election Compliance Audit Committee (MECA) voted to consider the matter closed. The split was 6-1.
The decision came as a relief to Hahn, who has spent the last few months on tenterhooks as his election filings were first reviewed by MECAC and then referred to an auditor. He grew visibly more relaxed as successive committee members spoke in favour of ending the matter rather than referring it to the courts.
“I was nervous. Who wouldn’t be?” he said of his emotions going into Thursday morning’s hearing. “I am relieved now.”
Dan Holt, the Elmira resident who first challenged Hahn’s election expense statement, did not share the same opinion of the outcome.
“It shows the system doesn’t work,” he said of MECAC’s decision. “The whole system is designed to protect the elected officials.”
He questioned the purpose of having expense reporting rules under the Municipal Elections Act if they aren’t going to be enforced.
“The law is meaningless. Why have it all? They should just get rid of it.”
Most of the MECAC members, however, decided Hahn’s contraventions weren’t significant enough to warrant action, agreeing the Ward 1 councillor wasn’t hiding anything. Rather, he had been ignorant of the rules, guilty of poor paperwork after the election.
“I don’t believe there was any intent in covering up,” said committee chair Carl Zehr, sharing the general assessment that the poor expense reporting had no impact on the election.
“That would not have changed. Period.”
That sentiment was shared by Larry Aberle, who, though critical of the faults, determined intent was an issue.
“I don’t think there was any deceit intended here. I don’t think the results would have changed had the proper financial report been filed.”
For committee member Tom Jutzi, Hahn’s violations were minor in comparison to the kind of cheating and corruption the legislation is aimed at preventing and prosecuting.
“This is one of the less serious offences under the act,” argued Jutzi, who found Hahn’s errors to be inadvertent and without intent.
“I believe the candidate acted in good faith throughout. There’s no evidence to contradict what he’s already shared with us,” he added in finding there was no need to refer the matter to the courts.
Only one member, Kevin Bambrick, determined that Hahn’s offences warranted legal action.
“I conclude that it appears that Scott Hahn has contravened provisions of the act relating to campaign finances, and that this matter be referred to a prosecuting attorney for further consideration.”
He pointed to the auditor’s report commissioned by MECAC that found the councillor had contravened the Municipal Elections Act on several fronts. Prepared by Froese Forensic Partners, the report found there was a lack of proper paperwork in relation to campaign signs and brochures prepared by Hahn’s family members. Specifically, there may have been issues with contributions by Tri-Mach Group – owned by Hahn’s father, Michael Hahn – and KKP Waterloo, a printing company owned by his in-laws.
While Holt could appeal MECAC’s decision, taking the matter to court, he said he’s unlikely to do so.
“I don’t think it would do any good. It would be a waste of time.”