The Crown won’t pursue a case against Scott Hahn despite a reasonable chance of conviction on charges the Woolwich councillor mishandled his expense report following the 2014 municipal election.
In a Kitchener courtroom Wednesday, Crown prosecutor Michael Carnegie said pursuing the case wasn’t in the public interest. All charges were withdrawn.
“A trial would require, in essence, a retracing of the entire audit process, deconstructing it over multiple days and calling several witnesses,” said Carnegie, adding that the only evidence the Crown had to go on was the previously submitted audit. “No statements were taken in a formal sense, no audio, video were provided, instead the auditors, as per their legitimate function, simply interviewed individuals and took notes.”
Although the Crown opted not to proceed with the charges, Carnegie says there would be a reasonable chance of a successful prosecution based on the evidence and the charges, but attributed Hahn’s poor paperwork to ignorance of the rules, rather than malice or fraud.
“Certainly there is a technical breech of the Municipal Elections Act. There is, however, no evidence that it was knowingly done, and this would, in my respectful submission, constitute offending behaviour on the low end of the MEA standard.
Hahn was accused of misreporting and mishandling his financial reports following the 2014 municipal election. After a forensic audit, Waterloo Region’s Municipal Elections Compliance Audit Committee (MECAC) found that even though there were discrepancies and cases of misreporting, there weren’t enough grounds to refer the matter to the courts.
MECAC ordered the audit in 2015 that found Hahn had contravened the Municipal Elections Act on several fronts. Prepared by Froese Forensic Partners, the report cited a lack of proper paperwork in relation to campaign signs and brochures prepared by Hahn’s family members.
Elmira resident Alan Marshal wasn’t satisfied with the lack of action, however, and it was he who brought the charges to provincial prosecutors.
Despite having prepared remarks, Marshall was not permitted to address the court on Wednesday morning after an objection from both the defense and the prosecution.
He was not pleased with the end result, however.
“A decision not to prosecute this case, involving blatant and outrageous contraventions of the MEA will encourage disrespect and non-compliance of our election laws,” he said in his prepared statement. “Laws are supposed to be inherently in the public interest in the first place. … Democracy … is in the public interest, as are elections and election laws.”