Councillors in Brampton voted to have the city auditor review contracts given to someone who has been described as a close personal friend of Mayor Susan Fennell.
Meri-Mac, an event planning firm, received 453 contracts, amounting to more than $1-million, from Brampton City Hall and the Brampton Downtown Development Corp., since 2001, according to a report in the Toronto Star.
The owner of Meri-Mac, Malcolm Scott Ching, lives in a house Fennell owns, and she describes him as a friend.
Ching has told the paper that he gets the business because he provides "outstanding value and service," and has been doing business before Fennell became mayor.
But councillors want to know if other firms have been given a fair chance at winning city contracts.
Fennell came on CBC Radio's Metro Morning to lambaste council, discredit the newspaper reports and defend herself and Ching.
"This is the outrageous, shameful conduct of certain members of council. [Ching] has not been given contracts. The Star story is filled with inaccuracies," she began in her interview with Matt Galloway.
She claims the City of Brampton contracts were worth about $400,000 over 14 years for all of council. And of that, only $28,000 over 14 years came from her office. She also points out the contracts began before she became mayor.
"It's very clear to me where there's a line drawn. You have friends and you have business. And the two don't cross," she assured Galloway in the interview.
She said the newspaper reporter took the payment history, not the procurement history of the contracts. So the reporter could not determine sole-sourced contracts, Fennell said.
The mayor said Ching had agreed to look after her father's house when he could not live there. After her father died, Ching remained in the house and Fennell "did not kick him out." She described Ching as a "fine, well respected person."
Fennell repeatedly said the entire controversy was a matter of members of council trying to campaign for mayor in the next election. She advised her opponents on council to do their jobs instead of campaigning.
The mayor said she still has the support of Brampton citizens.
"I hear every day people saying: 'It sure is the silly season,'" she said. "I won't be distracted by the shameful antics of people saying: 'How do we get at the mayor because we really want to be the mayor?'”
Council support is needed to go ahead with the audit. It will go for a vote on a June 4 meeting.
There are nine candidates running for mayor including Fennell. The election takes place on October 27.