Newspaper article The Canadian Press

London, Ont., Mayor Admits Altering Expense Document While a Liberal MP

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

London, Ont., Mayor Admits Altering Expense Document While a Liberal MP

Article excerpt

Ont mayor admits altering expense document

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LONDON, Ont. - The mayor of London, Ont., admits that as a member of Parliament he altered a contract that he submitted for expenses, but the $1,700 the government paid out was not for his son's wedding, his lawyer said Monday.

Joe Fontana, who has refused to step down as mayor while his case is before the courts, pleaded not guilty to fraud, uttering a forged document and breach of trust by a public official on the first day of his trial.

The Crown alleges Fontana -- then a Liberal cabinet minister -- wrote a $1,700 cheque as a deposit for his son's 2005 wedding reception at the Marconi Club in London then submitted a claim for government expenses along with a "significantly altered" version of the contract that secured the club as the wedding venue.

A $1,700 cheque was ultimately issued by the government and was sent directly to the Marconi Club and was applied to the total cost of the wedding, the Crown alleged.

Among the alterations on the contract were changing the date of the event from June 25, 2005 to Feb. 25, 2004, the word "wedding" to "reception" on the contract under the section for purpose of the event, the addition of a yellow sticky note saying "misc constituents reception" as well as the word "original" added in blue ink.

Crown attorney Timothy Zuber said evidence will be called to show there was no constituents' reception at the Marconi Club on Feb. 25, 2004 -- in fact, Fontana was in the House of Commons in Ottawa and registered a vote.

Fontana's lawyer, Gord Cudmore, said the 2004 was an error, that it was supposed to read Feb. 25, 2005, a date which he said would become important.

Fontana admits making those changes, Cudmore said, but what is at issue in the trial is the purpose of the $1,700 cheque.

"What was its intended purpose and what was it submitted for?" Cudmore said at the outset of the judge-alone trial.

"You will find in the course of the evidence called it is the position of the defence that the cheque had nothing whatsoever to do with the wedding."

Fontana's recollection was spottier at the time of his post-arrest police interview in 2012. …

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