London mayor Joe Fontana speaks to press Oct. 19, 2012 about allegations he used government cheques to pay for his son's wedding.
Credits: MIKE HENSEN/The London Free Press/QMI AGENCY
LONDON, ON -- Joe Fontana remains defiant in the London mayor's office as questions swirl over government cheques issued for his son's 2005 wedding reception.
The cheques, cut while Fontana was a London MP and Liberal cabinet minister, have left the RCMP asking questions about payments for a more than $20,000 bill at London's Marconi Club seven years ago when the mayor's son, Michael, had his reception.
Sunday, Fontana issued a statement.
"My preliminary review of the documents and financial statements currently available to me clearly indicates a personal payment made to the Marconi Club during the time frame in question," he wrote on his personal website.
While not explicitly addressing QMI Agency questions he still hasn't answered, the statement suggests Fontana continues to search for documents from that period.
"As the dates and events are from nearly eight years ago and The London Free Press has refused my request for a copy of the documents in its possession, I have contacted the appropriate institutions for copies of the required material."
The issue "will not impede nor affect my work as mayor," Fontana wrote. "This remains my priority and chief obligation."
The Mounties were asked to investigate by an all-party House of Commons board that oversees spending by MPs.
Fontana was repeatedly asked for comment last week by QMI Agency in the lead-up to it breaking the story about the questions involving the cheques Thursday night, including in-person at a public meeting that evening.
While QMI Agency is under no obligation to share its documents with the mayor, it offered to show them to him Friday if he'd answer questions. He did not respond then and wasn't talking again Sunday.
Two calls to Fontana -- and two more to Susan McElroy, his communications consultant -- went unreturned Sunday.
Fontana's Sunday's statement did little to quell the firestorm on social media, fuelling even more questions on Twitter.
And was it enough for his council colleagues, many of whom are clamouring for more details amid fears the controversy could overshadow all other issues at city hall?
Even Fontana's most vocal supporter struggled with that question.
"That's a hard one to answer, which for me is a rarity," said Coun. Stephen Orser, who got his start in politics working on Fontana's federal campaigns.
"We should take a deep breath and let him explain himself. I believe this (statement) is a giant step forward."
Not everyone was so accepting.
Gina Barber, a former city politician who's been a frequent Fontana critic since she started blogging about city hall in 2010, says the statement ignores the key question: Did Public Works Canada cheques pay for anything related to the wedding reception?
"It (the statement) doesn't answer my questions because I don't know what the 'personal payment' was for," she said. "And the real question is, was the payment made by Public Works? (He) doesn't address the issue at all."
On Friday, Fontana vowed to "get to the bottom" of the situation, noting he needed time to find the