Municipal Election 2006

No Question About Di Ianni's Integrity

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 22, 2006

If you've succumbed to the standing wisdom in Hamilton's corridors of power that Mayor Larry Di Ianni made an honest mistake and "took his lumps", you need to read Don McLean's article in this week's View Magazine, which examines the "honest mistake" meme carefully.

Let's start with the $1,000 cheque accepted from Village Green Denture Clinic, one of several cheques over the $750 limit accepted and cashed by the Di Ianni campaign, and eventually revealed during court hearings. This one was written on the same day the first deposits were made in the mayor's campaign account. That $1,000 cheque was reported in his sworn financial statement as two donations, one for $750 from the clinic and one for $250 by the individual who signed the cheque.

What honesty led to this mistake in reporting the donation?

This is just the beginning, and it goes straight downhill. The Hamilton Spectator editors insist that Di Ianni's integrity is not in question and that there is no evidence of intentional wrongdoing.

The evidence itself tells a much different story.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By concerned (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2006 at 13:05:50

The Spec also wll not print anything that opposes Dreschel's (spec columnist) biggest fetish Di Ianni. You can point out and back with facts but still the spec Di Ianni relationship remains strong.
It is also interesting that Di Ianni is now set to invade McHattie's territory by setting his camoaign office on Locke Street. right down the street from his pal Mr. Tony who is running for ward 1.
What frightens me the most is I see no real movement as the election approaches to push for change. It is a truly imminent threat that we may have the same mayor for yet another 4 years. Aside from controversy, I have seen nothing from the other candidates that is making any impact.
Hamilton apathy rules!

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By tony_toni_tone (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2006 at 13:14:24

is that Mr Tony who fired his hairdresser for breast feeding her baby during a break? sounds like he'll fit right in on council..

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By Kevin_ (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2006 at 15:30:01

In fairness, Justice Anton Zuraw and the special prosecutor also believed the election act violations to be honest mistakes.
Don McLean is hardly an objective observer in this matter.

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By incredulous (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2006 at 16:42:10

Kevin - did you even read the View article? I don't need the opinion of a judge to override my common sense. The article is virtually nothing but facts. You can't get more objective than that. And the writers questioning of DiIanni's integrity seems pretty reasonable under the circumstances. As he states, it's up to DiIanni to start explaining some of these 'honest mistakes' -why has he not done so? Avoiding the subject, critisizing your 'accusers' and endlessly repeating the line 'these were honest mistakes' are not the actions of an honest man. DiIanni has some explaining to do and clearly he ain't doing it. Until he gives me some good explanations I can only make my own deductions from the evidence presented. And that evidence is pretty damning. It's not a question of whether you likes the man's policies or not. It's simply a question of common sense and wanting a better standard of public servant for Hamilton.

A comment from an earlier article asked why Hamiltonians are so forgiving of DiIanni. I wish I could figure that one out. The man has an extraordinary knack for scewing up and being forgiven. He's making fools of us all.

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By Kevin_ (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2006 at 16:57:23

My point was only that the honest mistake thing is an invention of the Spec/Andrew Dreschel. The Judge, the Prosecutor, and the independent auditor all came to that conlusion.

Don McLean does not, I'm not surprised

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By Kevin_ (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2006 at 16:59:52

sorry, i meant ISN'T and invention of the spec

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2006 at 17:17:35

Kevin,

Take a look at the evidence presented in the article, and try to explain how these "mistakes" could possibly be "honest". Here's another example:


"Then there’s the last minute reclassification of 36 donations, just before the end of the trial where Justice Culver ordered the compliance audit. All 36 were listed in the March 2004 sworn statement as coming from individuals, but then a year later, in the March 2005 financial statement, they were all changed to corporate donations.

"How does a corporate cheque get confused with one from an individual? Corporate cheques have the name of the business printed right on them. ...

"And there’s something even stranger here. In eight instances, the reclassified corporate cheque was recorded as now having a different address than when it was first listed as an individual donation. How can the address printed on a cheque change? And if it was wrongly listed the first time, how did the person making the list come up with an address that wasn’t on the cheque?"


If you want to demonstrate that you're not just engaging in apologetics, then you need to better than citing (without a source) the opinion of a judge who only saw four of the dozens of charges against Di Ianni. You need to confront the evidence itself - the evidence Zuraw did not consider in court - and explain it away plausibly.

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By incredulous (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2006 at 18:29:43

Yes but that would require some depth of thought Ryan. The more I come to know 'Larry The Escapologist' the more I come to realise - he ain't no thinking man's Mayor.

When will Hamilton wise up?!!

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By Kevin_ (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2006 at 20:17:48

There's really no need to attack my intelligence. I've been nothing but polite.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2006/08/25/diianni-guilty.html

here's a source for the judge's comments. Otherwise, the court transcripts are available.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2006 at 20:46:21

Incredulous,

I second Kevin's point that ad hominem attacks are unhelpful.

Kevin,

Thank you for citing a source. In fact, the CBC report is paraphrasing the Hamilton Spectator, which has an well known track record of uncritical support for Di Ianni's integrity.

At the same time, the CBC report does not address McLean's robust evidence that strains the credibility of Di Ianni's "honest mistake" defence. I hope you will respond to McLean's points.

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By incredulous (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2006 at 09:33:31

Yes, yes agreed agreed. My apologies Kevin. It's not easy being incredulous... :)

To Ryan's point, I think the argument thus far has been somewhat superficial. If you can explain your point of view more specifically - by refuting the View article points directly - that would help.

Perhaps I could then go from incredulous to 'not quite so incredulous' to 'I agree with Kevin'...? (It could happen - I am quite prepared to keep an open mind on this one)

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By Kevin_ (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2006 at 10:21:54

My intention is not to refute the points presented in the view article. Clearly the facts surrounding this case are open to interpretation, and where the spectator editorial board and Judge Zuraw see honest error, Don McLean and others see dishonest accounting. I get that.

My intention is only to point out that the position that these were honest mistakes was not created by the Spectator out of thin air. There have been legal and accounting opinions to support that position.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 23, 2006 at 10:55:36

Hi Kevin,

The Spectator editorial board concluded that Di Ianni's mistakes were honest long before Zuraw ever saw the case, and Zuraw himself only ever saw six of the 41 charges brought against him. To argue that the Spectator editors drew their conclusions based on Zuraw's legal opinion is a non sequitur.

My point - and McLean's, if I have read his article correctly - is that it is very difficult to believe the mistakes were honest if you actually look at all the evidence, and not just the small sample of evidence that Zuraw considered.

When a single cheque from a single donor for $1,000 is donated, but it is written into Di Ianni's books as two separate cheques - one for the legal maximum, $750, and the other for the balance - from two separate donors, that does not look like it could possibly be an honest mistake. It looks like a deliberate attempt to get around campaign finance rules. If there's a different interpretation that accounts for the facts as we find them, then I'd like to hear it.

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By Joe (registered) | Posted September 24, 2006 at 00:59:21

I think an important point not being discussed is whether Di Ianni's guilt in this matter impedes his ability to be mayor. In my opinion, the answer is no. We must remember these charges are not criminal--they are in the same league as parking tickets. This is the world of politics, and if anyone thinks there are completely honest politicians out there, I'd like to know who they are (okay, I'm sure there may be some, but we shouldn't act surprised something like this happens).

My point here is that I trust Hamilton's future with Di Ianni based on his track record. It is unlikely that the major redevelopments happening downtown have taken place during his tenure happened by chance. The slow degeneration of our downtown occured over 18 years with Mayor Morrow at the helm. We finally have a mayor with an understanding of what needs to get done to help our core, and has the political skills to draw businesses to our city. We needed a person with a good business sense, we finally have one, and now people want to smear his character because of illegal donations. Let's take some time to think of the numerous positives during his time as mayor...

Lister, Tivoli, Connaught, Hilton, Staybridge Suites, businesses going back to Jackson, life back on James, two-way streets making a comeback, growth of the arts community, reconnection to our harbourfront, marine discovery centre, haida, rebirth of Locke & Ottawa streets, major activity with our airport (not to mention the new highway leading to it) etc. Our city is finally experiencing FAST and POSITIVE growth--let's not remove a variable that may be related to such growth.

I'm willing to forgive Di Ianni for his actions, especially because I think his contributions back to Hamilton (a city I'm sure he loves) outweighs the costs being discussed here.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 24, 2006 at 11:22:47

Hi Joe,

Thanks for your post. You write that Di Ianni's charges are analogous to "parking tickets", an analogy Andrew Dreschel used in his September 20 column (apparently Judge Zuraw equated the six infractions he considered to 'traffic offences').

http://www.hamiltonspectator.com/NASApp/...

Well, I'm not sure how I feel about that analogy, but let's run with it for a minute. Traffic offences may not seem like a big deal when you're applying for a job, but what if you're applying to work as a bus driver? Suddenly the speeding and improper lane change convictions no longer seem to trivial.

Similarly, Di Ianni's convictions - plus the charges that were never seen by a judge - suggest that he's not very good at accepting people's money properly, accounting for it, or spending it appropriately. For a job that requires him to do just that - collect other people's money, account for it, and spend it - his conviction for campaign financing violations suddenly bears directly on his ability to act as mayor.

Further, by enhancing his ability to campaign beyond what the law allows, the conviction throws the very legitimacy of his election into question. If he did not have that additional money, would he be able to run as successful a campaign?

Of course there's no way to find the answer, but the election results were fairly close, and because Di Ianni had the support of the development industry, a support he has repaid by giving developers many lucrative projects, he was able to outspend his main competitor by over $100,000.

There's no question that campaign money helps win votes - otherwise, candidates would not bother spending money on their campaigns. Therefore, the fact that Di Ianni had more money to spend than the law allowed does bear on the legitimacy of his election.

Finally, let's look at that track record.

  1. Tivoli: Di Ianni stood in front of the Tivoli during the 2003 campaign and promised to fund the arts and preserve architectural heritage buildings. He has not increased municipal funding for the arts, and ironically did nothing to save the very backdrop of his promise to preserve historic buildings - The Tivoli, which was subsequently demolished.

  2. Lister: Again, instead of preserving the historic Lister, which every architect who's been through the place insists is doable, Di Ianni supports demolishing it and giving LIUNA, a major sponsor of his 2003 campaign and one of the many overcontributors, $30 million in public money to pay double the going rate for office space in a new construction on the Lister property.

The Lister deal was negotiated in secret in the Mayor's office, and LIUNA has held fundraisers to help pay Di Ianni's legal costs. That kind of relationship is exactly why Di Ianni has the whiff of corruption swirling around him.

  1. Downtown reinvestments: these are mostly due to the Downtown Residential Loan Program. I'm honestly not sure who was behind that program. Other ares, like James North, are revitalizing all by themselves without help from City Hall (other than to convert the street to two-way).

  2. Businesses going back to Jackson: Jackson is still about half empty, and the businesses are there mainly because Yale Properties is cutting rents and trying to attract them.

  3. Two-way streets: This is one of Di Ianni's great failings. The verrrry long two-way conversion schedule was decided before Di Ianni's time, and he's done nothing to accelerate it despite all the evidence that it's good for business and good for city life. The conversions for Main and King, the two streets that need it more than anywhere else, are still years away.

Last summer, I asked him about two-way conversion, and he answered:

"Some people say we should go faster, some people say we should go slower, so we're probably just about right in terms of - I think we're headed in the right direction."

That's a political cop-out, not good leadership. When it's an issue that's important to Di Ianni and his donors, like Red Hill or the Aerotropolis, he has no problem blowing off people who disagree with him.

  1. Airport: Di Ianni is going in exactly the wrong direction here. Between the long-term prospects of air-based travel once global oil supplies go into decline and the tremendous impact air flight has on climate change, Hamilton should have had a serious debate over whether airport expansion is a good investment.

Instead, Di Ianni and the aerotropolis supporters in city government decided that we're not even allowed to contemplate a long-term growth strategy without aerotropolis. That's closed-minded, condescending, bullying management, not strong leadership. Good decisions flow out of considering all the options and evidence; bad decisions come from rigging the questions so that only certain options are allowed.

It's typical crony politics, and I think it's one of the reasons more businesses haven't located here. The bad money that thrives on cronyism is driving out the good money of forward-thinking, innovative industries that are trying to solve some of our long-term problems.

Instead, Hamilton is stuck in yesterday's planning model: highways, airports, and big box stores.

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By Joe (registered) | Posted September 24, 2006 at 12:29:18

Hi Ryan--

Good points, I clearly haven't been following Hamilton's politics as closely as some (I actually haven't lived in Hamilton in 5 years). Though I agree with your points about not trusting someone with a bad track record, especially considering the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, I don't think these campaign infractions generalize to balancing the city's books. In the latter scenario, I'm sure there are people whose job is to oversee appropriate use of tax dollars. I would have serious problems with someone who misused tax money, but Di Ianni misused money donated specifically for his campaign. I actually have no idea how things work in City Hall, so I may be way off on this.

Whether Di Ianni is directly related to the positive changes in this city or not, there appears to be a political climate where positive changes can happen. I guess the important questions to be asked is: (1) if a better climate can be established--definitely; and (2) if another mayor is capable of doing similar or better things--again, definitely. But in the world of politics, taking a chance on someone else is risky business, especially if the person being replaced has at the very least not impeded the city's growth. Our difference in opinion is in this last point.

I truly believe that Hamilton requires a Mayor with good business sense, and it's this good business sense that is working to transform the tourism industry (for the first time in Hamilton's history we're trying to show of our many waterfalls), education (McMaster's research park), and arts (renovations to Art Gallery of Hamilton).

Is Di Ianni directly related to these improvements? Who knows, maybe indirectly. But these things have happened while he was in charge, and very little growth (and a lot of problems) occured under another mayor's watch.

I think my major concern is that Di Ianni seems to be the best alternative, though I fully acknowledge that I don't know very much about the other candidates. I'm not being facetious here, but anyone from RTH consider running for mayor (Ryan, Jason)? I have always been a fan of electing someone whose interest is the improvement of Hamilton's future. The discussions and articles by RTH staff have clearly demonstrated this characteristic.

So I guess I'll throw a question out there--of those candidates who expressed interest in running, can someone describe who they think should be mayor and why? I think it would be helpful for RTH readers if our discussion moved in this direction.

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By King James (anonymous) | Posted September 24, 2006 at 15:00:18

I'm quite torn about who to support in this election.

Of course there are plenty of reason to not vote for the Diianni. I don't support his politics in general, but at least he has demonstrated some interest in the downtown.

Braden, on the other hand, is more in line with my politics, being both progressive and populist. The problem is, he's never been particularly fond of this city or interested in spending money on the core.

Eisenberger is perhaps the most perplexing of the major candidates, seeming to stand for nothing and everything all at once. He's a Harper supporter and former lobbyist for American Water, but he's also been active with Green Venture and (appears) to be shifting his politics somewhat leftward -for this election anyway.

Maybe Brother Baldasaro's time has finally come.

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By markwhittle (registered) - website | Posted September 24, 2006 at 16:41:15

In a few words, look to Marty Joanette, he accepted all the money, must have forgot to tell Larry about the over-contributions.

In a few words, Earnscliffe Spin Doctor shoots self in the foot, gets away with it thanks to Larry taking his lumps.

After ten years of first hand political experience here in the little smoke, and more than a few Ottawa Press Gallery appearances on National Television, the more things change locally, the more they stay the same.

Take Scott Duvall for instance. He was recruited by the Hamilton Mountain NDP in association with the local labor unions to run for Councillor in ward seven.

This strange fact seems to have been over-looked by all the local self-proclaimed watch dogs of democracy.

What’s with that, what’s the NDP’s hidden agenda for ward seven? Perhaps Scott will let us know soon, but don’t hold your breath, his silence to date is deafening.

Who knows, democracy has a funny way of separating the wheat from the chaff, no matter how hard special interest groups try to con trol her destiny. I’m on the right side of the Angels, that’s for sure.

Want proof, read my Blog;

http://theworldaccordingtomaw.blogspot.c...

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By Jelly (anonymous) | Posted September 25, 2006 at 03:39:12

Mark, what's undemocratic about a member of the NDP (or any party for that matter) running for council, and recieving support from those who also support the provincial or federal parties?

I fully support the recommendation by CATCH to ban all union and corporate donations, in hopes of making the civic process more transparent. But really, the actual laws have to be changed before we can expect everyone to abide by them- if a candidate wants to accept donations for a campaign from a union or corporation, that's legal right now, whether we like it or not. So what are the "self-proclaimed watchdogs of democracy" supposed to report?

Scott Duvall's silence may be deafening, but other than attacking your opponents, I haven't heard anything of substance from you yet.



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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 25, 2006 at 07:16:30

Jelly,

Ironically, the main argument I've heard about why the pledge isn't fair is that currently, most of the donations come from corporations, not unions, so the ban would hurt corporations more than it hurts unions.

Now let's think about that for a minute...

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By treated like a mushroom (anonymous) | Posted September 25, 2006 at 11:27:13

how come i can't read this in the spectator? how are voters supposed to know this if it's only on a website and an entertainment mag.

what we have to do to get good reporting in our newspaper???/

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By Jelly (anonymous) | Posted September 25, 2006 at 17:12:21

Well, yeah, corporations do tend to give more- it's about influence... unions (as far as I can tell) are in it more for political purposes than anything, the benefit to them is a bit more abstract. I suppose for CUPE employees it makes more sense to have a labour-friendly council. But much of the push for unions to give is made by their political action committees, especially teachers- these groups usually have a broad political scope, supporting issues not necessarily beneficial to the union or it's members, but just in the political interest of it's members.

Regardless, it would be good to see all donations banned, other than individuals. It would even be good to see the maximum donation lowered for individual donations too, perhaps to $500.

The only real benefit of having donations is that candidates can spend this money to promote themselves but more importantly promote the election itself- but this ought to be the responsibility of the city itself to get the word out. Maybe we ought to tax each donation made to municipal campaigns and put that into general promotion of the election itself? I dunno.

Maybe we could also have a couple more widely publicized debates too, as a way to reach more people.

It would be great to see candidates run on merit alone.

Once this council is elected, I hope the same people who have been pushing for the ban continue to keep the heat on council- formally ask that city council adopt these changes as law for the 2010 election, that way no one can back out and say 'you can't change the rules midstream'.



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By Jelly (anonymous) | Posted September 25, 2006 at 17:48:21

very true.... there ought to be a lower limit on that too- campaign spending altogether... needless to say it will take a lot of creative thought to make the process completely fair... which is why we need to start early in time for 2010.

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By Di Ianni dilemma made easy (anonymous) | Posted September 28, 2006 at 01:47:11

For those who are unconvinced about Di Ianni after Macleans article, what about the following:

- Red Hill (so many problems here it would take months to list them all!)

- From Red Hill we also get a lawsuit against the Federal government and an attack on 7 citizens who cared about the valley, one year after all active opposition had ceased!

- An attempt to privatise water!

- at least two counts of conflict of interest involving his assistant and his assistants wife occupation first as part of a firm getting untendered contracts and then as a lobbyist for Maple Leaf

- The Legionnaires outbreak scandle

- Refused to allow thorough air quality testing to protect kids near the new expressway

- The failed Maple Leaf deal which had him on bended knee to a corpporation

- Closure of the city run animal shelter and the reduction of Animal control to a ticket dispenser, animal execution block and licence bureau

- Rising taxes and lowered service

- soot class action lawsuit now pending against the city

- flooding class action lawsuit pending aginst the city

- HSR class action lawsuit pending against the City

- Tree maintenance down to lowest ever at 25 year cycle

- Failed Aerottrpoplis fiasco

- Pending push for mid-pen. highway

- Jamesville violence (and violence in general)

- Lack of arts funding

- Halfway house is still here after lady is stabbed

- unnecessary purchase of street sweeper

- growing municipal debt

- campaign donation violations

Need I go on??????

The nightmare of his reign should I hope make everyone at least think twice before voting for backroom deals and financial mismanagement. His campaign finance violations obviously show a definite trend toweards dishonesty and mismanagement. Can Hamilton truly handle 4 more years of this? Even a business magazine lowered Hamilton in the rankings as a place to do business (for those who believe this is all a city is good for). If Di Ianni is crowned once again, there is no hope for Hamilton. There will be no reason fro any progressive papers or websites for they will only be able to bear witness to Hamilton's continued decay.

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