Skip to main content

Politics Senate would have nixed Duffy contracts if they knew more, trial told

Witness Sonia Makhlouf, a Senate human resources official, arrives at the trial of suspended senator Mike Duffy at the courthouse in Ottawa on Monday, April 13, 2015.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Mike Duffy used broadly defined contracts to circumvent Senate rules and bill taxpayers for expenses such as $300 in makeup work and $1,580 in photo prints, including a picture of Barbara Bush, a court has heard.

The suspended senator is fighting fraud and bribery charges that are related, among other things, to contracts worth $65,000 to two firms owned by one of his former colleagues, Gerald Donohue.

The contracts specifically called on the companies to provide "editorial services" and "writing services (including speeches)" to Mr. Duffy.

Story continues below advertisement

However, Crown attorney Jason Neubauer made reference in the Ontario Court of Justice on Monday to invoices to Jiffy Photo & Print, including the mounting of a photo of Ms. Bush and the enlargement of a photo of someone called Miranda.

More details are expected to come out at the trial, and Mr. Neubauer did not state whether the pictures were indeed of the former first lady or of Mr. Duffy's daughter and other family members.

Still, the invoices for the pictures were made out in the name of Mr. Duffy, "c/o-Gerald-Donohue-Maple-Ridge." In his diary tabled in court, Mr. Duffy had an entry stating, "Send photos to Barbara Bush."

The Crown witness at the start of the second week was Sonia Makhlouf, a human-resources officer in the Senate who was involved in administrating the contracts to Maple Ridge Media and Ottawa ICF between 2008 and 2012.

Mr. Neubauer asked Ms. Makhlouf whether the Senate would have approved the contracts had they specifically referred to makeup services, giving $500 to an office volunteer or "physical fitness" work. He also asked about the ability of senators to pay for photo services out of their office budgets.

In all cases, Ms. Makhlouf said she would have rejected the requests or called in her superiors, stating that a senator's "research and office expenses budget" was reserved for specific purposes.

"I make sure the work is research, speech writing, editing, any other related parliamentary work," she said of the approval of contracts. "If everything appears to be logical, I'll leave it at the discretion of the senator."

Story continues below advertisement

For the period related to the charges against Mr. Duffy, his office budget was worth between $149,000 and $161,000 a year to hire staff and consultants. Senators such as Mr. Duffy had to sign off on all contracts and invoices awarded under their office budgets.

Ms. Makhlouf said there were a number of issues with the contracts awarded from Mr. Duffy's office, including attempts at backdating a contract by seven months.

In late 2010, Ms. Makhlouf asked Mr. Duffy's office for additional details on work that was provided by one of Mr. Donohue's firms. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Duffy's office said Mr. Donohue would be doing media monitoring, writing letters, providing advice on Web page design and offering general and timely advice on media matters.

Mr. Donohue is expected to be called in as a Crown witness in coming days. He will testify via video from his home, given his health problems, which go back at least to 2010.

In its opening statements, the Crown argued that in his handling of the research contracts to Mr. Donohue, Mr. Duffy "opted out of financial oversight and by exposing public funds to that risk, his activities were fraudulent in nature."

According to the Crown, portions of those funds awarded to Mr. Donohue's firms were subsequently subcontracted to other people, including a former volunteer and a personal trainer.

Story continues below advertisement

Ashley Cain received $500 after she stopped working in Mr. Duffy's office. Mike Croskery received around $10,000 over three years, although the defence has portrayed him as an expert on fitness issues.

Ms. Makhlouf was ready to be cross-examined by Mr. Duffy's lawyer, Donald Bayne, on Monday afternoon. However, because of an issue of late disclosure, Mr. Bayne was given an extension to prepare until Tuesday morning.

Mr. Duffy has pleaded not guilty to 31 charges that he is facing, in relation to his living and travel claims, his contracts with Mr. Donohue, and allegations of bribery.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Cannabis pro newsletter