York Region Councillor reimbursed tax dollars for a campaign website? Town refuses to answer question despite evidence

York Region Taxpayers Coalition has reason to believe a controversial Newmarket politician who sits on York Region Council has been reimbursed almost $2,000 of taxpayer dollars for his personal web site.

A just-published quarterly report from the Town of Newmarket’s website on 2015 Elected Officials Expenses indicates Newmarket Regional Councillor John Taylor was reimbursed $1,890.70 for a website that was provided by RC Designs, a Newmarket based web company who donated to Taylor’s 2014 municipal campaign by creating his campaign website (see below):

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The Town of Newmarket expense is listed as “RC Design Website Update (for John Taylor) Elected Officials $1,890.70.”

York Region Taxpayers Coalition president, Maddie Di Muccio, made inquiries with the Treasurer of the Town of Newmarket for more information. After a second attempt cc’ing a Toronto Star reporter, we immediately heard back from Newmarket Treasurer Mike Mayes. We’ve learned:

1) That the web address for this site is unknown by the Town of Newmarket. Treasurer Mike Mayes wrote “(the web address) was not provided with the claim but is not required to be in compliance with the Town’s Elected Officials Expense Policy.” (Yes, you read that correctly. The Town’s Expense Policy for elected officials apparently allows tax dollars to be used for personal websites; nor does a councillor have to provide evidence of the actual website)

2) When we attempted to visit John Taylor’s personal website, one he often used to promote his political agenda on, www.johntaylornewmarket.ca, we received a “404 Not Found” error message – even though he promotes this site on his Facebook political profile page.

3) Yet the invoice that the Town of Newmarket paid was for work completed that was for “design and development” and included:

a. Updating the web site to match the Town of Newmarket’s colours;
b. Updating the title of Mr. Taylor;
c. Updating user interface and content;
d. Changes to the site architecture;
e. Adjustments to the content.

The Town of Newmarket’s website publishes an Elected Officials page that displays councillor’s personal website addresses in small print, but they include a disclaimer regarding the views expressed on them. (For example, Newmarket Mayor Tony Van Bynen’s website www.vanbynen.ca listed on the Town’s website includes campaign activity.)

Mr. Taylor has owned political web sites prior to 2015 (although nothing since), but these former web sites consisted of content he used in re-election bids. York Region Taxpayers Coalition is watching for new developments very closely to ensure that public funds were not being used to fuel Mr. Taylor’s political ambitions. A politicians’ website potentially allows them to capture visitor emails that are then used for future campaigning.

There has been speculation that Taylor will be running for Newmarket Mayor in 2018 after what will likely be the current aging mayor’s last term.

York Region politician John Taylor made controversial waves in 2015 after an integrity commissioner complaint was launched when it was discovered he was using town resources to run his personal charity. At that time, Newmarket’s integrity commissioner indicated the Town’s flawed policy was at fault.

Later in 2015, Mr. Taylor paid back a campaign contribution of $750 to a Stronach related company after a complaint was filed regarding a breach of campaign finance rules.

In a staggering lack of accountability by refusing to indicate which web address tax dollars paid for, and that could be used for campaigning, the Town of Newmarket illustrates lax policies on Elected Officials expenses, allowing politicians to use tax dollars for furthering their own political ambitions.

We remind our members of two important details concerning Mr. Taylor:

1) He has run previously for the York Region Council Chair position. He did so just weeks after he was re-elected to Regional Council. Had he been successful in winning this appointment back in 2014, his ambitions would have resulted in a wasteful $250,000 by-election to fill his Regional Council seat.

We believe this incident is pertinent because it reflects Mr. Taylor’s attitude towards using public money to further his political ambitions.

2) Mr. Taylor’s spouse is the Vice President of Metroland Media, which publishes most of York Region’s local newspapers. The Newmarket Era asked no questions of Taylor’s $1,890.70 website reimbursement. We are advising members to view news printed – or omitted – about Mr. Taylor within that perspective.

The Town of Newmarket has yet to address our questions regarding reimbursing Taylor for a website that taxpayers paid for, that doesn’t currently seem to exist, that they admit they don’t know exists, and one that is likely to be furthering his political ambitions, admitting “rules” in place make this possible.

At press time, the Town of Newmarket has not answered our latest inquiry:

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The regional councillor’s Official Profile Page on Facebook includes political campaigning and his website, johntaylornewmarket.ca.

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The Regional Councillor’s LinkedIn page indicates his “personal website”  – which takes the user to  www.johntaylornewmarket.ca – a non-existent url.

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About Maddie Di Muccio