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Brampton audit investigation could stay with Peel police

Peel police say council's directive to have a different force investigate Mayor Susan Fennell's spending isn't binding on the police force.

Sept. 2, 2014
By San Grewal

Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell could have her expenses investigated by Peel police - a force she helps oversee - despite a city council resolution directing that a recent forensic audit be sent to a different police authority for a deeper probe.

“A resolution coming from any council, that wouldn’t be binding on the police,” Staff Sgt. Dan Richardson told the Star. “It is Peel Regional Police’s jurisdiction. We operate independent of any city council.”

The audit indicates Fennell’s office broke spending rules 266 times in seven years, for amounts totalling $172,608. It also found a further 79 possible breaches of the rules by the mayor, totalling $156,000, but in those cases auditors were given too little information to make a determination.

Following the city council resolution to pass on those findings, Chief Administrative Officer John Corbett was advised by the Ontario Provincial Police and the Attorney General’s office to first send the audit to Peel Regional Police, who have jurisdiction.

It is now up to the Peel force to decide whether it will conduct an investigation or hand the matter over to another authority.

Councillor Elaine Moore, who called the motion to send the audit results to a different force, reiterated her earlier concerns Tuesday.

“The police investigation was an avenue that was left open to us by the auditors (Deloitte Canada). They made it clear that a police investigation was certainly a way to get answers to questions that the mayor would not or could not provide information on.

“(I) and my council colleagues felt it wouldn’t be appropriate for Peel’s force to handle it, because (Fennell) sits on the police board. We specifically stated that, and we passed a motion that reflected that concern. Now council expects Peel police to respect our wishes. A lot of residents have told me that this investigation better go to the (Ontario Provincial Police)."

Moore said seven Brampton councillors, including herself, also sit on Peel Region Council, which sets the police budget. The entire audit, which included the spending of all Brampton councillors, is open to investigation.

“This is about protecting the taxpayer and answering to them,” Moore said. “No one is questioning the professionalism of Peel police. It’s simply a matter of showing the taxpayer that there is no possibility of a conflict. A lot of residents are very angry because me and some of my council colleagues have been trying to get answers on the mayor’s spending for five years, but we were stonewalled. Now hopefully the police will get all those answers.

“But the optics have to look right. Other police departments have passed matters on to different authorities for exactly the same reason.”

Richardson made it clear no decision has been made about who will handle the forensic audit.

“A decision on the course of the investigation and on the investigative agency will be made within the next week or so,” he said. He did not explain why the decision has still not been made. The council resolution was passed Aug. 6.

One of the issues highlighted by councillors is Fennell’s use of a private on-call limousine service. The audit found 38 transactions, totalling $144,150, billed to the city for the limo service over three years. Fennell did not produce documentation to prove the transactions were for city business, so the audit could not determine if rules were broken.

In total, Fennell billed the city $530,000 over 10 years for the untendered limousine service. (She also has a $23,500 annual car allowance for her Lincoln Navigator SUV, which she personally chose, at a lease cost to taxpayers of $1,400 a month.)

Moore said a police investigation could involve warrants to get information that auditors could not obtain.

“Taxpayers deserve to get all the answers before they vote on Oct. 27,” Moore added. “This decision on who’s going to conduct the police investigation needs to be made right away.”