Todd Cowan, former Woolwich mayor, charged with fraud and breach of trust

Former Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan has been charged with fraud and breach of trust in connection to expense claims he made while in office.
Todd Cowan lost his bid for re-election as Woolwich mayor in October's municipal election. (Todd Cowan)

Former Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan has been charged with fraud and breach of trust in connection to expense claims he made while in office.

The Ontario Provincial Police said Friday that Cowan, 50, has been charged with fraud under $5,000 and breach of trust after its anti-rackets branch conducted a "thorough and detailed investigation."

"Fraud is an offence which deals with transactions. It's money-based," explained OPP Sgt. Peter Leon. "With respect to a breach of trust, it comes, usually, with a person that holds a position in society that is entrusted to do certain things."

Cowan has been accused of double-billing the region and the township for $2,770, and double-billing $465.62 in mileage to the township and the Grand River Conservation Authority.

Leon would not comment on which expense claims exactly the charges were related to, saying that those details "will be clearly outlined through the judicial process." 

The double-billing revelations, which came out in September, did not deter Cowan from seeking re-election in the October municipal election. His bid was unsuccessful, however, and Sandy Shantz was elected mayor.

Both Woolwich township council and the Region of Waterloo council asked police to look into whether the duplication was an accident or a case of wrongdoing. 

The regional council claims were uncovered by a third party investigator, who found 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 at the time said the double billing was a result of "an accounting error" and reimbursed the region. 

Township changes expense policy

Since referring the matter to the police, the Township of Woolwich has made several changes to the way its mayor and councillors claim work-related expenses.

  • The wording of the township's expense policy has been improved, to provide more clarity on what is and what isn't an eligible expense.
  • Any expense claim made by a member of council must now be accompanied by two signatures: one from a fellow member of council and another from a member of the township's administration.
  • Expense claims made by the mayor will be jointly reviewed by staff with the township and the region.
  • Credit cards are no longer issued by the township to members of council.

CBC News asked Woolwich CAO David Brenneman to comment on the charges laid against Cowan, but Brenneman said he was unable to comment on the matter, as it is now before the courts. 

Cowan is due to appear in court on March 3.