Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, London Mayor Joe Fontana both in court

A tale of two mayors (allegedly) behaving badly

London Mayor Joe Fontana. (Dave Chidley/CP)

For once, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is not the Canadian mayor making headlines for his court battles. On Tuesday, Ford will be upstaged by Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz and London Mayor Joe Fontana. Those mayor will appear in two different courtrooms to face charges.

First up, Fontana, who faces charges of fraud, breach of trust by a public official and uttering forged documents. It is alleged that, while he was a federal Liberal cabinet minister in 2005, Fontana used a Government of Canada cheque to cover $1,700 in costs associated with his son’s wedding.

Fontana has said he didn’t do anything wrong and that he will not step aside as mayor during the duration of his court case, even as other members of council tried to force him to step down until the case was resolved. “I treat the allegations that have been levied as serious, but I have not and will not allow them to be a distraction from my duties and obligations of my office,” Fontana wrote in a letter, which he posted on his website in December.

“The fact is the Fontana family paid for the wedding,” Fontana’s lawyer, Gordon Cudmore, said during a press conference in November 2012.

Fontana’s court date isn’t the only legal trouble for the London mayor and his son. In February, the London Free Press reported that a charity run by Fontana and his son — Joe Jr. — would have its registration revoked by the Canada Revenue Agency, meaning it would no longer be able to issue tax receipts. The charity is fighting the decision and has appealed for a stay.

Next up, Winnipeg, where Mayor Katz is following in Ford’s footsteps with his own conflict-of-interest case.

In Katz’s law troubles, which the Winnipeg Free Press sums up, it is alleged that the mayor hosted a taxpayer-funded Christmas party on Dec. 13, 2010, with a total bill of $3,084.35. The problem: Katz owned Hu’s Asian Bistro, the restaurant where he hosted the party.

Much like the case of Toronto Mayor Ford, Katz could lose his position as mayor and would be removed from office if a judge finds that he did violate Manitoba’s Municipal Conflict-of-Interest Act. Katz, for his part, says he didn’t break the law.

The complaint that brought the case to court was filed by another Winnipeg restaurant owner, Joe Chan.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ford’s legal issues appear to be over for the time being — he has faced both a libel lawsuit and a conflict-of-interest case (which lawyer Clayton Ruby says he will appeal) in the last year. The Toronto mayor will likely lay low on Tuesday, as he has done after appearing at a press conference Thursday to deny published allegations by the Toronto Star that he has a substance abuse problem. Rumour has it, however, that Ford will appear at a public grand opening of a new Coca-Cola headquarters in downtown Toronto on Thursday morning.

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