Audit committee formed will look at mayor’s election spending

Cornwall Coun. Glen Grant assumes the role of acting mayor on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 as council approves appointments to an election audit committee. The committee will be looking into Mayor Bernadette Clement's personal spending in the 2018 election. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Editor’s note: This story has been modified to clarify that the formation of this committee is required under provincial law. It happened to be coincidental that the bylaw to form the committee was a last minute addition to the agenda on the same day a complaint was filed against the mayor.

CORNWALL – Three people have been named to an election expenses audit committee that will look into Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement’s personal spending in the 2018 municipal election.

In a bylaw introduced Tuesday night (April 23), city council approved the appointment of Naresh Bhargava, Wes Libbey and Rachel Poirier to the election audit compliance committee.

Bhargava is a former city councillor, Libbey is the town crier and sits on the committee of adjustment, and Poirier is a finance officer with the Centre de Sante Communautaire de l’Estrie.

The bylaw was passed by council with no discussion. The corporation is required to form the audit committee regardless if there’s a complaint.

Clement excused herself while Coun. Glen Grant assumed the role of acting mayor, given Clement’s conflict of interest.

The mayor admitted last week that she personally overspent on her election campaign by $4,154, which she argues was an honest mistake.

The audit committee will determine whether to go ahead with an investigation and audit within 30 days after a public complaint is filed. If a probe is approved, an auditor will need to be hired and their report, coupled with the committee’s analysis, will figure out whether the law was broken, the intent and the appropriate punishment – removal from office, a fine or do nothing.

The committee will likely get down to work very soon because that formal complaint has been filed. It was filed by a citizen and not one of the 2018 electoral candidates.