The mayor of London, Ont., has been charged by the RCMP with fraud following an investigation into allegations that he misused public funds in 2005 when he was a federal cabinet minister and Liberal member of Parliament.
The force issued a news release Wednesday saying Joe Fontana has been charged with fraud under $5,000, breach of trust by a public official and uttering forged documents. In the Criminal Code of Canada, anyone who uses, deals with or acts on a document they know is forged or causes another person to do so is acting against the law.
A London Free Press article, published in October, alleged that the former federal cabinet minister used more than $20,000 in cheques from the government of Canada to help pay for his son's wedding reception in 2005. Fontana was the Liberal MP for London North Centre at the time.
The Free Press reported that two payments were made to the Marconi Club banquet hall, the wedding venue. The first was a deposit of $1,700 and the second for nearly $19,000.
Sgt. Richard Rollings, spokesman for the London detachment of the RCMP told CBC News that the charge of fraud was laid in connection to the deposit for the smaller amount. He said that there was not enough evidence to lay charges in connection with the larger amount.
Pressure is mounting for Fontana to step down as mayor while the charges are pending. However he has refused and maintains his innocence although he has resigned from the London Police Services Board.
Mayor Joseph Fontana says he is not stepping down in the wake of criminal charges he is facing over allegations he used federal funds to help pay for his son’s wedding reception.
“I’m innocent of all of these charges and I intend to fight as hard as I can to clear my name,” Mr. Fontana said at a news conference on Thursday in his lawyer’s office in London.
Mr. Fontana is under pressure from a growing number of city councillors to step aside pending the outcome of the charges. But he insisted on Thursday that the charges will not pose a distraction for council.
“I’m innocent and I’ve been given a mandate by the people of London to fulfill my responsibilities,” a defiant Mr. Fontana said.
He did resign on Wednesday evening from the London Police Services Board. He is set to appear in court on Jan. 8.