Joe Fontana, Mayor Of London, Ont., Hit With Non-Confidence Motion

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JOE FONTANA FRAUD CHARGE
The mayor of London, Ont., will face more pressure today to step down, after he was charged with three criminal offences. (CP) | Alamy

The mayor of London, Ont., will face more pressure today to step down, after he was charged with three criminal offences.

A non-confidence motion will be presented at a meeting of the finance and administration committee at city hall urging Joe Fontana to take a leave of absence – with pay – until the charges have been dealt with by the courts.

Fontana was charged with fraud under $5,000, breach of trust by a public official and uttering forged documents on Wednesday.

Coun. Joni Baechler, who will present the motion on Monday afternoon, said the public is entitled to good government but claims that's not possible in the city given the criminal proceedings against its mayor.

"This has cast a shadow over the mayor and I believe governance in the City of London," she said.

Fontana has said he will not step down and intends to plead not guilty in the case.

"I am innocent of all of these charges and I intend to fight as hard as I can to clear my name," he said at a news conference on Thursday.

"I've been given a mandate by the people of London. People call me every day saying they like the work I’m doing as mayor."

The non-confidence motion is expected to easily pass at the finance committee on Monday. But some members of London’s city council say the move is a waste of time because councillors have no legal authority to force the mayor to step down.

Prof. Martin Horak, an expert on municipal politics at London's Western University, disagrees.

“I think that vote is very important because council needs to let the public know where it stands vis-a-vis what's happening with Joe Fontana. And although it doesn't have legal force, it's of symbolic value,” Horak said.

If the motion passes, it will go before the full city council for a vote next month.

Horak says if a large majority on council vote against Fontana, it will make it very difficult for him to carry on as the city’s mayor.

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