The mayor of London, Ont., is under investigation by the RCMP over allegations that $20,000 in federal funds were used to pay for his son's wedding.
Joe Fontana, who was the Liberal MP for London North Centre at the time of the wedding in 2005, released a statement Monday confirming that the Mounties are looking into the allegations against him.
On Sunday, the mayor said his preliminary review of his financial statements shows he made a personal payment to the Marconi Club, the banquet hall where his son Michael's wedding was held.
Fontana did not offer details about that payment and said he has to get copies of the documents at the heart of the allegations from the appropriate institutions.
The allegations were initially published last week in the London Free Press.
In the meantime, Fontana says city business will remain his priority. His lawyer, Gord Cudmore, advised the mayor not to make any further public comments.
Municipal affairs expert weighs in
City Coun. Paul Hubert hopes the matter won't be a distraction.
"The important thing this week is … council needs to focus on integrity, and I think the mayor is going to have to do something about restoring confidence in the integrity of the office of mayor and the integrity of council," Hubert said.
He added that people feel dismayed and disillusioned, and that there's a feeling the city's reputation has been tarnished nationally by the accusations.
Meanwhile, veteran Coun. Bud Polhill believes more information is needed before anyone attacks the mayor.
Polhill also wondered why the information is coming out now.
"After seven years, this information has been there and it's never come up," Polhill said. "There were all kinds of opportunities to bring this forward in the past and it never happened, so I don't know what to think of it, but it made me pretty suspicious."
Andrew Sancton, a professor and expert on municipal affairs at London's Western University, said there's no legal obligation for Fontana to step down.
"There's certainly no rules that require that. And there's no mechanism for forcing him to step aside," Sancton said.
Londoners were split on whether the mayor should step down from his post as the Mounties continue their investigation, though no charges have been laid.
"I don't know if he needs to step aside, but I think we need a few more answers," said Nancy Hallam. "And if stepping aside will bring those answers out, maybe that's the best."
Scott Hatcherd says he thinks the mayor should stay put until the facts come out.
"And once those facts are obtained, if for whatever reason, if he is proved guilty that would be a better time to have him step aside."
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