Woolwich signs on to changes in election audit committee

The municipality in the region most experienced with the Municipal Election Compliance Audit Committee (MECAC), Woolwich this week approved new terms of reference for the group.

MECAC meets on an as-needed basis in the event there are issues with the mandatory filings of candidates’ following a municipal election. The committee, which serves for most of the municipalities in Waterloo Region, including the upper-tier government, had its first-ever meeting in 2015 following discrepancies in then-councillor Scott Hahn’s election expense reports. It later met again over expense forms filed by Mayor Sandy Shantz. Both cases were related to the 2014 election.

First approved by Woolwich in 2010 and then amended in 2014 to include the city of Cambridge, the terms of reference now expand beyond the region to include Guelph.

The changes also call for the creation of a pool of candidates to serve in configurations as needed. The Municipal Elections Act specifies that an audit committee must comprise at least three and no more than seven members. The new format allows municipalities some flexibility to choose the size of a committee based on the issue, said deputy clerk Jeff Smith.

Meeting September 18, Woolwich councillors endorsed the appointment of 10 people to the MECAC pool: Larry Aberle, Christine Joo, Tom Jutzi, John Lindsay, Robert Steinberg, Murray Stoddart, Rosita Tse, Robert Williams, Karen Wilson and Carl Zehr.

Of that group, Aberle, Jutzi, Stoddart, Williams and Zehr took part in a number of hearings involving both Hahn and Shantz, a first for Waterloo Region. The former councillor and mayor faced several MECAC sessions, financial audits and, eventually, protracted legal action brought on by a private citizen in relation to expense filings from 2014. Ward 2 Coun. Mark Bauman also faced legal action, having been removed from office temporarily for failing to file an election expense report despite having been acclaimed in 2014 and not running a campaign.

The township saw hearing and legal costs pass $25,000, with both Shantz and Bauman having to foot legal bills of their own in the process.

Under the new terms, MECAC members are each paid $175 per meeting, plus the applicable mileage based on where the hearings are held.

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