Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell's spending to be reviewed by police
Mayor says she has nothing to hide after audit finds more than $131K in improper expenses
A forensic audit that details multiple breaches of spending rules by Brampton, Ont., Mayor Susan Fennell will be forwarded to police.
After a heated debate Wednesday afternoon, council voted in favour of the motion by Coun. Elaine Moore to forward the findings of the 96-page audit by Deloitte to police. There were cheers from some councillors and applause from the public gallery after the vote passed.
Fennell, who is seeking re-election, said she wants the police review of the audit to happen before the Oct. 27 municipal vote.
The audit, released late Tuesday night after a four-month investigation, found that Fennel breached spending rules 265 times.
It found more than $131,000 in expenses made by Fennell and her staff went against city rules.
It also said another 79 expenses totalling more than $150,000 may have breached the rules.
Some of the expenses include non-economy flight passes, jewelry, a number of mobile phone IQ tests, premium hotel rooms and credit card charges that were not for city business.
The report found no evidence of wrongdoing for a trip to Florida for a sister-city agreement.
It also cleared the mayor of using city staffers for organizing private fundraisers.
If there are changes that need to be made, I will make them.- Brampton, Ont. Mayor Susan Fennell
Several expenses of concern were related to flight passes the mayor and her staff used for travel to Federation of Canadian Municipalities meetings. The cost exceeded the economy-class fare paid by councillors flying to the same meetings.
The auditors found several instances in which an average trip using a flight pass cost more than $1,000 above the average price of a single ticket. The audit also found $4,685.68 in expired flight-pass credits.
Fennell released a statement saying she accepts much of the report but not all of it.
“I have not read all of the report. I accept much of what it has to say, but not all of what it has to say,” Fennell said.
"If there are changes that need to be made, I will make them.”
Councillor blames rule change
Brampton Coun. John Sprovieri is among those whose spending was also put under the microscope, and was found to have improperly claimed expenses of $558, money he said Wednesday morning he intends to repay.
"I didn't expect it to be this bad," Sprovieri said Wednesday on CBC's Metro Morning, referring to the audit's findings.
Sprovieri attributed the trouble to a change in the rules. In 2008, the city switched to a "value-based" policy which, he said, gave councillors and the mayor more freedom to spend, with less oversight from the city manager. City staff had to approve spending under the previous, rule-based policy, he said.
"This is where the abuse comes in," he said. "This is where the system failed.
"We cannot rely on a value-based policy where we depend on individual people to make decisions with taxpayer dollars."
Sprovieri attributed his improper expenses — tickets to a community fundraiser — to a misunderstanding of the rules. He said he plans to repay the money, and introduce a motion in council for his colleagues to do the same.