Fontana claims innocence, vows to stay on as London mayor
Published Thursday, November 22, 2012 6:19AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 22, 2012 5:05PM EST
London Mayor Joe Fontana has announced that he won’t be stepping down from his position, and insists he is innocent of the three criminal charges laid against him.
Speaking to reporters in London, Ont. on Thursday, Fontana said he realized the frustration that has been caused following allegations that the former Liberal MP used a federal cheque to help pay for his son’s wedding reception.
“I feel it right here,” said Fontana, with his hand on his heart. “I’m innocent of all of these charges and I intend to fight as hard as I possibly can to clear my name.”
Fontana surrendered to RCMP Wednesday and was charged with fraud under $5,000, breach of trust by a public officer and uttering forged documents.
The charges stem from a $1,700 federal cheque issued by Public Works Canada that was used to pay a deposit at a London banquet hall for the 2005 wedding for his son, Michael.
At the time, Fontana was a federal Liberal cabinet minister. He was elected mayor of London in 2010.
Fontana said Thursday he had resigned from the London Police Services Board, but felt he had been elected mayor to do a job -- and planned to continue to do just that.
"Today I am telling you I was given a mandate, a responsibility, an obligation to lead the city, to work with my colleagues, to work with the community to create that great city we all want," he said. “London is greater than just one person.”
Asked about the resignations of the mayors of Montreal and Laval, Que., who stepped aside during a corruption probe while no criminal charges have been laid against them, Fontana reiterated he had no plans to resign.
“Well I can lead and that was their choice, that’s not my choice,” he said of the former Quebec mayors. “My choice is to stay and to do my job and work with my colleagues and work with the community.”
Fontana's lawyer, Gord Cudmore, reiterated that his client would be entering a not-guilty plea for each charge.
"I believe my client to be innocent," Cudmore said, adding that he’s advised Fontana not to comment on the matter any further.
In October, The London Free Press had quoted a man named Joe DiPietro, former general manager of a London reception hall called the Marconi Club, who alleged that that another Public Works-issued cheque from Fontana was used to pay off a $18,900 balance. DiPietro said it took him several months to chase down Fontana to collect the money owing.
“What I can point out to you is five weeks ago people were talking about $20,000. It’s now established that it was not right,” said Cudmore. “Now we’re talking about $1,700, and I don’t minimize the allegations-- don’t misinterpret it that way.”
Fontana is expected to make his first court appearance on Jan. 8, 2013.