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Ward 7 councillor Nav Nanda appeals decision to audit her campaign finances

Nav Nanda | Town of Oakville
Nav Nanda | Town of Oakville

Ward 7 councillor Nav Nanda is headed to court in an attempt to overturn the decision to audit her finances in last October's election campaign.

On August 1, the town's election compliance audit committee found reasonable grounds to question whether Nanda accurately reported her campaign expenses.

It ruled that an auditor should be hired to look at her finances.

Nanda has appealed that decision. She is asking the Ontario Superior Court to decide if Gobinder Randhawa, the Ward 6 resident whose concerns launched the audit process, is eligible to bring a complaint against a Ward 7 councillor.

Nanda's lawyer, John Carlo Mastrangelo, tried to convince the compliance audit committee to throw the complaint out, arguing that Randhawa couldn't apply for an audit because he wasn't entitled to vote in Ward 7.

The town's audit committee decided that Randhawa was eligible to raise concerns about Nanda's financial statements.

It ruled that Ontario's Municipal Elections Act, which allows "an elector who is entitled to vote in an election" to apply for a compliance audit, should be interpreted to refer to a resident of the municipality, not any specific ward.

"The Candidate's suggested interpretation would also undermine the important public purpose of the compliance audit regime, which is to ensure transparency and public scrutiny of those who run for public office and provide a mechanism for the public to hold candidates accountable for their campaign finances," wrote the committee in its decision.

Mastrangelo said the issue has been appealed because it "raises an important and novel question of law and procedural fairness" that has never been addressed by an Ontario court.

This is a "threshold legal question that will determine whether the audit should, in fact, go ahead," he added. "In our opinion, the court should weigh in on that before public dollars are spent on auditors, with the time and the distraction that that brings."

A written statement from Nanda added," We stand by the fact that our filed audited statements are clear and accurate."

With ongoing mould issues disrupting proceedings at the Milton courthouse, the appeal is expected to take months to hear, Mastrangelo said.

If the court rules that an audit should occur, the town will appoint an auditor to review Nanda's finances.

The auditor's findings on any violations of election finance law will be delivered in a report to the compliance audit committee.

That committee will receive the report in a public meeting, offer both the complainant and councillor a chance to respond, and then decide if prosecution under the Provincial Offences Act is appropriate.

If the matter is sent to trial and Nanda is found guilty of knowingly violating the rules, she could be fined, forced from her seat and barred from running in the next municipal election.