Senator Mac Harb plans to repay about $51,000 in expense claims to the Senate, his lawyer says.
Earlier this year, a Senate committee ordered Mr. Harb to return living expenses he had claimed to help cover the cost of maintaining a residence in Ottawa. The Senate gave him until midnight Wednesday to repay the money and had threatened to claw back his wages if he refused.
Simon Ruel, Mr. Harb’s lawyer, said his client has decided to repay the money “under protest” and maintains that the Senate’s decision was illegal. “He does not admit liability,” Mr. Ruel said in an e-mail. “Should he be successful in Court, his position is that the Senate would have to reimburse him.”
Mr. Harb filed an application for judicial review of the Senate’s decision last month, arguing that the proceedings against him were unfair and that the Senate did not give him a reasonable chance to participate in its investigation of his expenses. The Senate has not yet filed a response to Mr. Harb’s claims.
The Ontario Senator was told to return the money in May after independent auditors found that he spent more time in Ottawa than at the Pembroke area home he claimed as his primary residence. Senators whose primary residences are more than 100 kilometers away from Parliament Hill are allowed to claim living expenses to help cover the cost of staying in Ottawa for work.
The auditors said the Senate’s rules on residency were unclear, but the Senate committee handling the audit disagreed and ordered Mr. Harb to repay $51,000, saying he was not entitled to the claims in the first place. The committee also ordered Senator Patrick Brazeau to return money he claimed for living expenses and kept the money already returned by Senator Mike Duffy – who paid after the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff gave him the money.
Conservative Senator Gerald Comeau, who chairs the Senate’s internal economy committee, sent a letter to Mr. Brazeau earlier this week informing him that the Senate would begin clawing back his pay by 20 per cent to recover the nearly $49,000 he was ordered to repay, along with $4,000 in legal fees previously covered by the Senate.