A lawyer for Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro says in a letter to Elections Canada that he's disappointed the agency won't meet with them unless Del Mastro understands his statements could be used against him in court.
In a letter written June 13 and provided to CBC News, Jeffrey Ayotte writes of his "profound disappointment" that Elections Canada won't meet with Del Mastro or any of his representatives.
Ayotte says in the letter he's confirming a conversation with Elections Canada officials.
"I further confirm that Elections Canada will only be interested in meeting with Mr. Del Mastro at some point in the future if he is prepared to give a cautioned statement," Ayotte wrote.
A cautioned statement means people answering questions are aware their statements can be used against them in court.
Elections Canada is investigating Del Mastro over allegations he and his campaign spent too much on the 2008 election.
The case revolves around a personal cheque written by Del Mastro to Holinshed Research Group, which did research and made live phone calls to constituents as part of his election campaign.
Frank Hall, president of Holinshed, complained to Elections Canada that Del Mastro's election return didn't reflect the work he had done or the value of the work. According to court documents released Thursday, Hall said he provided $20,000 in services, for which he was paid $21,000 — $20,000 plus GST — via a personal cheque from Del Mastro.
A copy of the personal cheque was included as evidence in a small claims suit Hall filed against Del Mastro on another contract Hall said wasn't paid. That suit was dismissed as abandoned.
Del Mastro said Holinshed did only $1,500 worth of work, or $1,575 including GST. He said he has been reimbursed for anything he paid for on behalf of his campaign. Candidates have personal spending limits of $2,100.
Del Mastro told CBC News that his official agent, Richard McCarthy, issued two cheques in error to pay the $21,000 quote for services Holinshed sent. One cheque for $11,000 was cancelled and Hall refunded the $10,000 he'd already deposited.
A memo written on Holinshed letterhead refers to the return of $10,000. But Hall says he didn't write the memo and the handwriting doesn't match the writing of any of his staff, the court documents say.
Dated Oct. 31, 2008, the handwritten note says, "Return of deposit in amount of $10,000 sent in error from Dean Del Mastro's campaign account. Invoice to be sent to EDA detailing portion relating to campaign."
The writing bears a striking resemblance to a handwritten memo with McCarthy's full name, professional designation as a certified management accountant and his address, which was part of Del Mastro's election expenses file. It also resembles an unsigned note listing additional election expenses that was also found in the file. The bottom of that note, dated Sept. 23, 2008, says "Put stop payment on $11,000 cheque," next to an asterisk. Among the similarities, all of the notes feature a period rather than a comma to separate digits in thousand-dollar amounts such as $10,000 and $11,000.
It's not clear who wrote any of the documents or what the purpose of the Holinshed memo was.
McCarthy didn't respond to two requests for comment.
Bank records turned over to agency
The Conservative Party issued a statement on behalf of Del Mastro on Friday afternoon that repeated what he has said since questions first surfaced.
"My campaign followed all of the rules. We submitted the documents. They have been audited and verified," Del Mastro said in the written statement.
"Despite the facts, Elections Canada has undertaken a process where they have sought court orders for documents that would have been extended freely had they simply approached me with any questions or concerns that they had."
Court documents released Thursday show Elections Canada has had production orders issued for Del Mastro's personal banking records, as well as some of the records for his riding association in Peterborough, Ont.
Bank records filed with Elections Canada for Del Mastro's campaign show he was reimbursed for $1,575. The investigator for Elections Canada says in the court records released Thursday that he can't find a bank record that indicates Del Mastro paid Holinshed that amount.
"It seems to us that Elections Canada is fixated on the information it has obviously received from representatives for Holinshed Research and is not prepared to receive any information in any open manner from Mr. Del Mastro," Ayotte says in the letter.
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