Londoner makes application for compliance audit of Van Meerbergen’s campaign

An investigation may be launched into a smear campaign against former city councillor Virginia Ridley.

Some of the questions raised about a smear campaign against Ridley will be brought before city hall’s compliance audit committee.

Londoner John Hassan applied for a compliance audit Friday of Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen’s campaign.

“It boggles my mind some people are just going to let this go. I think there was an injustice done,” Hassan says. “To not know what is going on in your campaign, to me justifies some sort of a look at it.”

Thursday night Van Meerbergen identified a campaign volunteer who paid for an anonymous website attacking incumbent Ridley, but insisted the action was taken without his knowledge.

“Not one dime went from this campaign to this extraneous website,” he says.

Campaign volunteer Barry Phillips admitted to paying over $1,000 of his own money to Blackridge Strategy for a website opposing the Bus Rapid Transit plan.

Phillips claims Blackridge “hijacked” the platform by accusing Ridley of child abuse for bringing her son to a meeting at city hall.

Hassan’s compliance audit application is to examine Van Meerbergen’s campaign finances and whether third party advertising rules were violated.

Phillips believes because he used his personal money and intended to focus on BRT it doesn’t push Van Meerbergen over the campaign spending limit nor violate third party advertising rules.

Van Meerbergen’s campaign spent about the maximum allowed in defeating Ridley.

A compliance audit is an imperfect tool to answer some of the questions raised but it’s the primary option available to look into election concerns.

The Municipal Elections Act was just updated by the province prior to last year’s election. The Act is silent about investigating unregistered third parties and other questions related to the virginiaridley.ca website.

Earlier this week Coun. Stephen Turner put forward a motion to explore options to investigate but city staff warned against the move.