Ottawa councillor pleads guilty to 2 charges under Municipal Elections Act

·2 min read

Innes ward Coun. Laura Dudas has pleaded guilty to two charges under the Municipal Elections Act related to the financing of her 2018 election campaign.

The first-term councillor will pay two fines of $500 each, plus a surcharge of $220 for the infractions.

An audit into Dudas's campaign was ordered in July 2019 after a resident in her ward complained she had reused signs from her failed 2014 campaign. As well, Dudas had T-shirts and a professional video ready the day she launched her 2018 bid, suggesting she'd spent money on her campaign before she was allowed.

In a joint submission, Dudas and the prosecution agreed to a deal that sees the councillor plead guilty to two of four charges: filing an incorrect financial statement and incurring campaign expenses before opening a campaign bank account.

Two other charges, one for failing to keep proper records of certain campaign expenses and another for failing to keep proper records of certain campaign contributions, were both dropped.

The agreement was accepted by the Ontario Provincial Offences Court, according to city clerk Rick O'Connor, effectively ending the audit into Dudas's campaign.

Dudas promises to 'take greater care'

In a statement to CBC, Dudas said she's pleased the investigation is over.

"There was never any disputing the administrative errors that were made in my campaign paperwork filing, and for which I have always taken responsibility," she wrote.

"It was an oversight to not count the dozen or so old signs that supporters used as decorations for my election night party or had mistakenly been displayed on private and public property, before being immediately taken down. As well, a pre-order of t-shirts by a campaign volunteer placed prior to my opening a bank account meant that it was an ineligible expense."

Candidates are allowed to use old campaign signs, but must record their value based on what they'd cost to buy new. Dudas did not pay for the campaign video, but estimated its value at $800.

Dudas, a former newspaper reporter, said she commits to "taking greater care in any future filings."