A forensic audit of spending by Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell and councillors has been forwarded to Peel Regional Police, a spokeswoman for the city said Friday.
Brampton’s chief administrative officer, John Corbett, initially approached Ontario Provincial Police and the Attorney-General’s Office. But they advised him to go to Peel Police first, since the complaint originated in their jurisdiction, spokeswoman Megan Ball said in an e-mail.
However, the mayor of the Toronto-region city, who is running for re-election after representing the city for 14 years, also sits on the police force’s civilian oversight board, the Regional Municipality of Peel Police Services Board, raising the possibility of a conflict of interest.
“Should Peel Regional Police determine it does not want to respond to the complaint, the CAO would then seek further direction from the Office of the Attorney-General,” Ms. Ball said.
Released last week, the Deloitte Canada audit revealed that Ms. Fennell had broken city spending rules 266 times, inappropriately charging the city $172,608 for pricey hotel rooms, flight passes and IQ quizzes purchased on her cellphone.
At its meeting last Wednesday, Brampton council voted to send the audit to a police force other than Peel Police, because of Ms. Fennell’s position on its oversight board.
Ms. Ball said the city is now awaiting a formal response from Peel Police.
Councillor Elaine Moore, who moved the motion asking for a police investigation of the audit, said in a text message Friday, “I respect that there’s a jurisdictional protocol and am hopeful that PRP will respect the motion and wishes of Brampton council, and quite frankly the sentiments of the general public given that Mayor Fennell is a member of the police services board and the obvious conflict of interest this presents.”
Constable Fiona Thivierge said she had no information about Peel Police having received the audit. “That doesn’t mean we haven’t, it just means we haven’t been told we have it,” she said.
Ms. Fennell was cleared of wrongdoing in 10 cases, two of them instances where earlier media reports suggested she inappropriately used city staff for private events and trips to Florida.
There wasn’t enough paperwork to determine if $149,955 worth of questionable expenses filed by the mayor breached the city’s code of conduct. Most of those expenses pertained to a limousine driving service that cost between $47,000 and $49,000 annually from 2010 to 2013. Ms. Fennell’s office could not provide documents detailing what services the company provided, so auditors were unable to determine whether the trips were strictly for city business.
Councillors also broke city rules in some of their expenses, the audit found, such as by buying tickets to events for family members and using corporate credit cards for personal purchases.
Councillor John Sprovieri said he believes the best scenario would be for Peel Police to forward the complaint to the OPP, as the public could be skeptical if a Peel investigation absolves Ms. Fennell of any criminal wrongdoing.
“If it’s done outside, by the provincial police, then people can’t say anything regardless of what the findings are,” he said, adding that he trusts Peel Police Chief Jennifer Evans to make the right call. If Chief Evans decides to investigate the audit’s findings in-house, Mr. Sprovieri said Ms. Fennell should take a leave of absence from the board.
Ms. Fennell was unavailable for comment.