Senator Colin Kenny faces new questions about staff tending to personal affairs

Emails obtained by Radio-Canada show staff in the office of Senator Colin Kenny taking care of the senator's personal affairs as far back as 2005. Kenny has been criticized by the federal auditor general for using Senate staff for non-Senate business.

Emails show Senate staff organizing home renos and taking care of senator's tanning salon business

Senator Colin Kenny staff tending to personal affairs again?

8 years ago
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Featured VideoEmails show Senate staff organizing home renos and taking care of senator's tanning salon business

A Liberal senator is facing new questions about his use of Senate resources for personal business.

The CBC's French-language service, Radio-Canada, has obtained emails showing that as far back as 2005 Senator Colin Kenny had staff from his office organizing renovations to his home and taking care of business at a tanning salon he once owned.

In one email from 2005, a Senate staffer offers Kenny an update on work being done at his residence.

"Mirrors are installed," the employee writes. "Guest bathroom counter supposed to receive tomorrow. Phones are being done today."

In another, Kenny complains about delays to work on his bathroom.

"One or two months is not acceptable for the toilet," Kenny writes, instructing a Senate staffer to send him a list of work that still needs to be done.

Other memos show Kenny's staff managing affairs at the senator's tanning salon business.

"We are out of disinfectant for the beds/goggles," one email from 2010 reads.

"We obviously don't need an entire huge bottle of it for one month but I don't know if there are any alternatives. Not sure how you'd like to proceed."

Another email suggests Senate staff were involved in day-to-day operations at the business.

"I did tan cards this morning and went through all the Aug. sales to identify what we owed Jeff," it reads.

Complaint filed in 2013

Kenny has come under scrutiny before over accusations he used staff members to attend to personal business.

A former employee, Pascale Brisson, filed a complaint about Kenny in October 2013.

She alleged she spent roughly half her time at the office taking care of the senator's personal affairs.

Kenny was also one of nine senators whom the auditor general of Canada recommended the RCMP investigate over questionable expenses.

In his report, Michael Ferguson found "the senator paid salaries and benefit expenses to staff for work that may not have been for parliamentary business."

Ferguson stated, "We found that staff performed numerous tasks that were not related to regular office operations, but instead to the Senator's personal activities. These tasks included payments of personal invoices, maintenance of personal books and records, planning of various personal activities, and scheduling of personal appointments."

Pursued own agenda, arbiter finds

Retired Supreme Court justice Ian Binnie reviewed the expenses of Kenny and 13 other senators.

He found Kenny's the most problematic.

Binnie focused on Kenny's travel, saying some of the trips he took were not for parliamentary business but rather for personal activities.

Former Supreme Court justice Ian Binnie, appointed by the Senate to review the findings of Auditor General Michael Ferguson, found that some of the trips billed by Senator Colin Kenny were of a personal nature. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

"There is an artificiality about many of those trips," Binnie said. "He essentially made and pursued his own Senate agenda at public expense."

Kenny recently repaid almost $31,400.

A spokesperson in Kenny's office said the senator would not comment on the latest allegations that he used staff on the public payroll to handle his personal affairs.

In the past, however, he has downplayed the issue, saying the Senate employees who work for him spend only a few minutes of their workday on non-Senate business.

Kenny is not the first senator to face such questions.

In 2011, former Liberal senator Raymond Lavigne was sentenced to six months in prison for fraud and breach of trust. Lavigne was found to have falsified travel claims.

The judge also found he used his position for financial gain.

Lavigne had a staff member cut down trees on his property during work hours as a way of saving money.