RCMP documents suggest that Senator Mike Duffy’s problems are not restricted to his housing and travel claims, but also focus on the murky financial relationship with an old friend.
Eight of the charges announced by the RCMP last week are in relation to consulting contracts awarded to a man by the name of Gerald Donohue and subsequent monies paid through him to three others for unspecified services.
Donohue met Duffy when the two worked at CJOH, CTV’s local affiliate in Ottawa, back in 1989 and the two became friends.
Contract with a friend
The RCMP allege in court documents filed last fall that much of Duffy’s Senate expense money ended up in Donohue’s company’s accounts.
In fact, according to their analysis, 57.4 per cent of all of the senator’s general expenses were paid out to Donohue’s company, known initially as Maple Ridge Media Inc (it subsequently was called Ottawa ICF).
In dollar figures, that means that $64,916.50 made its way to Donohue’s company, an amount the RCMP cites as being "disproportionately larger than other expenses."
No evidence of work done: RCMP
And for what work? That is the question the lead investigator on the Duffy case, Cpl. Greg Horton, began to ask after the contracts were flagged by a forensic accountant working with the RCMP.
The initial contract between Donohue and Duffy and obtained by the RCMP, began in 2008/09. It indicated Donohue would provide "editorial services, writing services and speeches" to the senator. The arrangement continued until March 2012, but it was only in 2010, that Duffy clearly outlined Donohue’s "duties."
Again, in a contract disclosed by the RCMP in court documents, Duffy writes that Donohue is tasked with monitoring "emerging and current issues of special interest to the senator, and to P.E.I., to write speeches, press releases, letters, provide advice on web page design and provide advice in communications."
Admits to not doing the work
The RCMP says there is no evidence Donohue did anything of the kind.
In fact, according to the RCMP, Donohue admits it.
In an interview with Horton’s investigators, Donohue says while there was a job description he didn’t perform the duties in it and that at no time did he "produce any tangible document, report or work product."
This is a curious admission that warranted further questions from the RCMP, especially given the contracts Duffy submitted to the Senate. Two of them state clearly that Donohue was working on special projects for the senator; one on them for a "heritage project" and one a report on Canada’s "aging population." But when RCMP questioned Donohue about the projects, he said they were not specific, but rather "catch-all phrases."
Not really assignments
Again, as quoted in the court document, Donohue says it’s "a catch-all phrase and it’s intended to cover everything that you’re supposedly uh, capable of providing to the senator."
But only once did Senate administration ever bother to question the nature of Donohue’s work.
Two years after initially hiring Donohue, the P.E.I. senator attempted to not only renew Donohue’s contract, but also to backdate it. Duffy added that Donohue had brought in additional staff.
A human resources officer with the Senate refused the request to backdate the contract and in November 2010, requested further details on the work provided.
RCMP documents show Duffy’s assistant, Melanie Mercier, responded by saying, "it was.exactly what we had indicated on his last contract" and that it was to help the senator rewrite speeches.
Again, this was work Donohue tells the RCMP he never did.
Cpl. Horton proffers another theory about those contracts, and the mention of Donohue’s additional staff.
In the production order, the investigator writes that he believes that assertion "...was an effort to mislead Senate administration in order to get the contract approved."
The contract was indeed approved, as were three separate contracts that Duffy gave to other consultants. The difference: those consultants billed for specific services and contracts and had experiences as consultants.
This was not the case with Donohue.
Not a consultant
As Cpl. Horton observes, "In contrast, Gerald Donohue didn’t own a consulting business, he lacked any experience as a government consultant, his contracts and invoices were vague, he received large lump sum payments with little explanation or measurable service."
If the "business" relationship ended, it would seem it was because of Donohue and not Duffy.
There were no further contracts between Duffy and Donohue after 2012.
And Horton believes it was because Donohue had soured on dealing with Senate bureaucracy – a bureaucracy that nevertheless approved almost $65,000-worth of contracts for Donohue for allegedly no work and which has now ultimately led to fraud charges against the suspended senator.
Duffy, for his part, has denied any wrongdoing. None of the allegations against him have been tested in court.