Case dismissed over councillor’s election signs

LANCASTER – The SD&G Compliance Audit Committee will not take any further action in the case over South Glengarry councillor Sam McDonell’s election signs.

McDonell’s signs triggered an investigation by the township clerk after he reported a value of 372 signs he received from his first cousin, Michael McDonell, who ran in the 2014 election.

The value reported was $1,921 which Sam McDonell had done after getting three quotes, picking the highest quote to “err on the side of caution.” His move triggered a violation of the Municipal Election Act because single donor donations of goods and services can’t exceed $1,200.

By the time the violation was discovered, the expense form couldn’t be amended because the deadline had passed.

Addressing the committee Thursday afternoon, Sam McDonell said he got three quotes – one from an online sign company in Toronto, a phone quote with a local supplier and the third – the most expensive one – from Vistaprint, which he used for transparency and it would be “easy to replicate” if he was challenged on his expenses.

Michael had paid $1,758.28 for approximately 450 new signs in 2014, Sam said.

The committee briefly debated in private before rendering its decision to dismiss the case.

“We, the SD&G Compliance Audit Committee, through our review determines that the probability of a net worth to election signs exceeding a $1,200 value is negligible or not likely recognizing that these signs were obtained by a candidate in the 2014 municipal election,” chairwoman Denise Labelle-Gelinas ruled.

The other members of the committee were Karen Thompson and Gilles Paradis.

During their open deliberations, Labelle-Gelinas said she talked with accountants about the depreciation of coroplast election signs. It would have been 50 per cent at the most, meaning the signs would have been worth as little as $827 last year.

Lesson learned

South Glengarry Coun. Sam McDonell addresses the SD&G Compliance Audit Committee in Lancaster, Ont. on Thursday, May 23, 2019. The committee dismissed a case against McDonell over the value of used election signs. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

After the meeting, a relieved McDonell told Cornwall Newswatch the whole experience was a “lesson learned.”

“It was as good an experience as it could be. It was very professionally dealt with. I was very happy the way it was put out and the public had the opportunity to see it and transparency has been number one priority with all my work on council and this is subject to that as well.”

Not only a lesson for him, McDonell believes there’s a take-away for others running for office.

“I personally read the Elections Act. I would encourage anybody whose interested in even running, make sure you read through your councillor package. Make sure you read through all the acts and read them again if you have to because, I read it once and I missed one little provision, and it cost me a bit of time,” he said.

Timeline on release of Cornwall decision

The South Glengarry case will have many wondering about the fate of Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement and her $4,000 personal over-contribution to her campaign.

A city official says an update on the release of the Cornwall committee’s written decision will likely be available “early next week.”