No authority to deal with Blackridge's election actions, committee decides
Published Friday, July 26, 2019 6:51PM EDT
The police may soon be hearing from London Councillor Stephen Turner over work done by Blackridge Strategy.
The comment comes after a dramatic meeting of city hall's Compliance Audit Committee about the actions of Blackridge, a political consulting firm, during last year's municipal election.
Bryan Skolnik, the lawyer for Blackridge and firm co-owner Amir Farahi, called for Turner’s complaint to city hall's Compliance Audit Committee be rejected because neither of his clients registered as a third-party advertiser during last year's election.
"He's not a third party. And if that argument is successful, then there is no need to hear an application. We don't need to air all the dirty laundry that's raised in Mr. Turner's application.”
But Turner argues a loophole in the municipal Elections Act, that only registered third parties are subject to compliance audits, should not shield those behind a pair of election websites that targeted incumbent councillors Maureen Cassidy and Virginia Ridley.
"The obligation is clear that those activities required registration and if not for the omission of registering you would be hearing this matter without considering the question of jurisdiction.”
Ultimately, the committee decided Turner’s complaints against Blackridge Strategy, Farahi and campaign volunteer Barry Phillips were outside of its authority.
Farahi deemed the issue over, “I think the Compliance Audit Committee made the right decision. I'm glad that the matter is put to rest. It’s been a major distraction to the city, it’s time we focus on things that matter.”
And when asked if he would make the websites targeting Ridley and Cassidy again - Farahi was unapologetic.
"I don't know. There was nothing wrong with the websites. We were not a third party. It was a service we provide - that many businesses and agencies provide - not just in London but across the country.”
The Compliance Audit Committee decided it does not have the jurisdiction to look into the concerns raised by Turner, but he may still have other options.
City Clerk Cathy Saunders explains that the decision of the committee could be appealed, or “Someone could bring a court challenge forward, or someone could approach the police to investigate if they felt there was a violation of the municipal Elections Act.”
Turner says his search for answers is not over.
"I'm considering going to the police. I understand they have been approached before and believe they don't have jurisdiction. But I would like to have a formal response from them. And then I will go forward to the minister himself.”
Written reasons explaining the Compliance Audit Committee's decision are expected be published in the coming days.