But tens of thousands in spending is still unaccounted for.
By: San Grewal Urban Affairs Reporter, Published on Fri Oct 24 2014
Note: This material is subject to legal complaint by Susan Fennell
Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell has dramatically reduced the amount she must pay back to taxpayers after appealing the results of a forensic audit that found she should return $34,118.
In her report Friday, Janet Leiper, the appeal arbitrator hired by the city, found that Fennell did not break city rules when she used Air Canada’s Latitude economy flight passes for city business. Leiper did rule Fennell must repay $3,522.97 for a business class flight to London and a hotel suite at the Fairmont Whistler.
Fennell’s lawyer, David Shiller, had argued that the flight passes fell under the city’s requirement to fly on a “regular economy” fare, though the flight passes Fennell purchased are the most expensive out of the three in Air Canada’s economy category.
The city’s policy does not say what a “regular economy fare” is, Leiper, Toronto’s former integrity commissioner, wrote in her decision.
Leiper’s report, which dealt with council member appeals of the Deloitte Canada audit, focused on just a small portion of the controversial spending in the mayor’s office.
Still outstanding is more than $155,952 that Deloitte auditors said could not be accounted for because not enough information was provided by the mayor’s office. Council must still deal with the forensic audit and Leiper’s report and could decide to take action on both.
In a press conference held on the front lawn at her Brampton home, Fennell said she felt vindicated by the report. Deloitte Canada, the Star and her opponents “were just plain wrong,” she said. “The arbitrator now agrees with that.”
In September, Fennell served the Toronto Star with a notice of libel over its coverage of the expenses scandal. The Star stands by its reporting. After Fennell threatened legal action against Deloitte, the firm pulled out of the process and Leiper was asked to step in and hear the appeals.
In August, the Deloitte audit found Fennell and her staff breached the city’s spending rules 266 times for $131,581 in charges and expenses (not including what was reimbursed). Deloitte recommended that Fennell personally pay back $34,118.
The other 10 members of council had a total of $42,979 in expenses and charges that breached the city’s rules, the audit found. It was recommended they pay back $33,769. Six councillors had their amounts reduced by Leiper Friday to $3,883.52 from $10,901.65
Fennell said Friday the Deloitte forensic audit “has now been shown to be a total waste of taxpayer” dollars.
The audit is currently being investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police.
Fennell’s flight costs under the Latitude air passes, which allow ticket holders to upgrade to business class, included fares of $1,850 to Ottawa, $1,800 to Saskatoon and $1,800 to Bagotville, Quebec. The Deloitte forensic audit found that the average cost of Fennell’s airfare was more than twice the price of the lowest economy fare.
At her house on Friday, about two dozen people were on hand to show their support for Fennell.
“I have given her my support because of her honesty, her integrity,” prominent Brampton lawyer Ron Webb said, when introducing Fennell at the press conference.
Councillor John Sanderson, who is trying to unseat Fennell, issued a statement saying council will have the last word.
“There is no way the Brampton taxpayer is going to pay for Susan Fennell`s irresponsible jetsetting lifestyle on my watch. Her highly paid Bay St. lawyers can argue all they want, but council will decide what Ms. Fennell owes back to the hardworking taxpayers of Brampton,” he said.
At a press conference earlier Friday, Sanderson questioned how the Latitude fare is actually an economy fare. “The policy clearly said ‘regular economy fare’. You show me one person in Brampton who thinks the highest of three fares in that category, that costs $1,800 to fly to Ottawa and lets you sit in business class, could be considered a ‘regular economy’ fare.”
Councillor John Sprovieri was at Sanderson’s press conference.
“The taxpayers aren’t going to get stuck with this. She (Fennell) thinks she’s fooled people. She hasn’t fooled anyone. She always tries to find a way out. This will just make taxpayers even angrier. Her ridiculous salary, limousine, Luxury SUV, all the travel, people are just fed up with all of it. But we’re going to get this money back.”