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Mayor Susan Fennell defends issuing of contracts to friend
Brampton mayor tells CBC radio councillors want to oust her.

May 29, 2014
By: Katelyn Verstraten Staff Reporter

Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell took to the airwaves Thursday morning, denouncing the Star’s investigative piece looking at city contracts given to a company owned by her friend, calling it a bid by councillors to replace her as mayor.

“This is the outrageous, shameful conduct of certain members of council,” Fennell said via phone on the CBC’s Metro Morning. “The Star story is filled with inaccuracies.”

On Wednesday, Brampton councillors ordered an internal investigation into city contracts given to the event-planning company Meri-Mac owned by Malcolm Scott Ching.

There have been 453 city contracts totalling more than $1.1 million awarded to Ching since 2001.

A Star investigation found that Ching lives in a house owned by Fennell and is described by neighbours and others as a close personal friend of the mayor. In 2007 Fennell used her city-issued credit card to purchase airfare for Ching to Florida, on the same day she charged a flight for herself and her husband to Florida. She said the cost was later reimbursed to the city.

Ching’s company has also been paid between $350,000 and $550,000 a year to plan and stage Fennell’s annual private gala and golf tournament. Both have no official link to the city.

Ching has said in a written statement to the Star that his company provides outstanding value and service and that the vast majority of city contract costs were to cover disbursements, the purchase of products and sales tax.

The Star stands by the story.

Referring to Ching as a ‘close friend’, Fennell admitted that he lives in a Brampton house she owns.
When her father couldn’t live in the house, Ching moved in to care for the property, says Fennell. When her father passed away Fennell inherited the house, and didn’t ‘kick [Ching] out’.

“He is a fine, fine, well respected person in Brampton — and someone I think the world of,” said Fennell.
Fennell said she doesn’t know exactly how much business Ching has received from the city, but that she has been told it is significantly less than $1.1 million dollars.

When asked if she thought if there was anything wrong with using a friend’s company, Fennell was adamant there was not.

“It’s very clear to me where there’s a line drawn,” she said. “You have friends and you have business and the two don’t cross. I have never voted on or participated in any discussion that has moved business to any particular company.”

Fennell added it is “absolutely not true” that Meri-Mac has a monopoly on contracts. She said that 95 per cent of her office budget goes to places other than Meri-Mac.

As for the allegations, “I don’t say they’re unreal,” said Fennell. “I say you have a group of people working in cooperation with one reporter who are trying to mislead and surround information incomplete, out of context to create an optic.”

The investigation is not going to interfere with her job, she says.

“Brampton is a well-run city,” said Fennell. “I am proud of my track record, and 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?’”

With files from San Grewal