Police to investigate Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan's expense claims

Woolwich Township council has asked Waterloo Regional Police to investigate mayor Todd Cowan's expense claims, after an investigation of Cowan's 2013 and 2014 claims turned up discrepancies.
Todd Cowan is seeking to be re-elected as mayor of Woolwich township. (Todd Cowan)

Woolwich Township council has asked Waterloo Regional Police to investigate the expense claims of Mayor Todd Cowan after an investigation of his 2013 and 2014 claims turned up discrepancies.

A third party investigator discovered Cowan submitted claims for mileage, meal allowances and conference fees to both Woolwich Township and regional council for reimbursement. The claims total $2,770, and cover six dates.

Cowan says he was "quite surprised" to learn the claims had been submitted twice.

"As soon as it was brought to my attention, after reviewing it, like I said in my statement, I quickly recognized it. I reimbursed the region for the overpayment," he said. 

At least part of the problem, Cowan said, is that he doesn't prepare his own expense claims. 

"On the township side I produce them myself, or I used to, I'm not doing that anymore," said Cowan of his expense claims. Cowan said his assistant had filed the expense claims submitted to regional council. 

"It was an accounting error, it was on behalf, my timeliness wasn't quite as good as the region's, so when I completed them after, that's where the errors occurred." 

Cowan reimbursed the region for the full amount with a cheque on August 20.

"When I did them, I should have been more aware of what I had done before," he said.

This was an innocent mistake.- Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan

The township has cancelled Cowan's corporate credit card, and recommended that acting mayor also sign off on  council expense claims for the remainder of the term.

New process for cross-referencing expenses

The investigation into Cowan's expenses has also exposed the need for regional financial staff and local city and township staff to compare submitted expense claims. 

The investigation was triggered after a member of the public approached the Region of Waterloo for copies of Cowan's expense claims at the end of June.  In July, the township received a Freedom of Information request for Cowan's expense claims, and also was given copies of his regional expense claims to compare them. 

According to a press release from Woolwich Township, that was the first time township staff were able to compare Cowan's filings for both levels of government.

Now, the chief financial officer for the Region is working on a process to ensure a comparison between the expense claims that regional councillors who are also serving on local councils submit to each body.