Politics

Senator Colin Kenny faces review by Senate ethics officer

Liberal senator faces questions over use of Senate staff for personal business

Colin Kenny 20070212

The Senate's ethics officer has written to Senator Colin Kenny to say that she is conducting a preliminary review of his use of Senate staff for personal business. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

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The Senate's ethics officer has launched a preliminary review of Senator Colin Kenny and his use of parliamentary resources for personal tasks, CBC's French-language service Radio-Canada has learned.

The move comes three-and-a-half years after the first revelations about unusual tasks performed by Kenny's Senate staff.

Radio-Canada/CBC News investigations in 2013 and 2016 revealed the longtime Liberal senator used staff to perform personal tasks around his home and businesses, including booking fitness sessions and ordering lotions and tanning beds for his tanning business.

Kenny's Senate staff were also responsible for paying bills related to his personal residence, as Pascale Brisson, a former assistant, explained in an interview with Radio-Canada in 2013.

AG questioned Kenny's use of staff

"It could be hydro, water, Rogers, ADT bills for the alarm system, condo fees, the senator's Visa. All these bills came to the office. I opened them, I accessed his bank account and then I paid them online."

Kenny used his own money to pay his bills, but his assistant's salary, which was over $40,000 a year, was paid by taxpayers.

The federal auditor general also questioned Kenny's use of Senate staff. In a 2015 Senate-wide audit, Auditor General Michael Ferguson noted Kenny's staff performed duties that had nothing to do with the Senate.

"We found that staff performed numerous tasks that were not related to regular office operations, but instead to the senator's personal activities. These tasks included payments of personal invoices, maintenance of personal books and records, planning of various personal activities and scheduling of personal appointments."

Kenny has already acknowledged that his staff were doing personal work for him, but he always said that they were spending very little time on those matters.

Ethics officer letter

The Senate ethics office first said it had begun looking into the questions raised by the Radio-Canada/CBC stories more than a year ago, but could not provide any details.

But in a letter dated March 9 of this year, Senate Ethics Officer Lyse Ricard informed Kenny she had decided to undertake a preliminary review of his use of Senate employees for personal purposes.

Ricard wrote that she had "reasonable grounds to believe that you have breached your obligations under the [Senate Ethics and Conflicts of Interest Code]."

At the end of this review, Ricard will decide whether to conduct a formal investigation.

Ricard refused Radio-Canada's request for an interview, but a spokesperson for her office said the more-than-three-year delay in beginning the preliminary review was due to procedural reasons.

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