An Ontario justice of the peace facing allegations of misconduct and fraud has escaped a disciplinary hearing by retiring from his post.
Santino Spadafora is alleged to have falsified more than 600 expense claims for meals, hotels, highway tolls and mileage for out-of-town court dates, according to a Justices of the Peace Review Council.
The allegedly inappropriate expense claims, totaling $16,400, “showed a pattern of repeatedly providing misleading and untrue facts,” the council said.
Spadafora was due to face the allegations at a formal conduct hearing on Nov. 24, but chose retirement instead, his lawyer, Mark Sandler, told the Star.
Once Spadafora retires, the review council no longer has jurisdiction over him and it “doesn’t have to decide whether or not he engaged in any misconduct,” Sandler said.
“He decided retirement was a better alternative then having to go through this. The case is over,” he said.
The alleged fraud previously prompted criminal charges against Spadafora. The charges were withdrawn in late 2012.
Earlier this year, Sandler told the Star his client denied all allegations and intended to “fully defend his reputation at the hearing.”
However, on Nov. 4, Spadafora filed a motion to adjourn the hearing and requested a publication ban on his personal information.
On Friday, the council convened a hearing to handle the application and Sandler told the panel his client was withdrawing the motion because he had submitted his retirement papers to Chief Justice Annemarie Bonkalo.
Spadafora’s retirement is due to take effect on Jan. 31, 2015, he said.
Sandler also requested the council pay Spadafora’s legal fees, citing the cost he had incurred defending the criminal charges that were later withdrawn. Spadafora was not present at Friday’s hearing.
The hearing panel, which consisted of a judge, a senior justice of the peace and a community member, adjourned Spadafora’s hearing with no future date.
“In the circumstances, it is not a good use of public funds to proceed with the hearing,” the panel decided.
It was unlikely the hearing would be completed before Spadafora’s retirement, when the review council would lose jurisdiction over him, the panel said: “If His Worship were to ever attempt to return to office as a justice of the peace, the Review Council would regain jurisdiction and the hearing process would reactivate and continue.”
The panel said it would review Spadafora’s account before deciding whether it would pay his legal fees.
Had Spadafora been found guilty of judicial misconduct, he could have faced sanctions ranging from a warning to suspension without pay. The council also has the power to recommend to the attorney general that a justice of the peace be removed from office.
Santino Spadafora, 59 years old, of Vaughan, was a former Toronto police officer who operated a paralegal service before being appointed as a justice of the peace on December 20, 2000.