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Sony Centre CEO was paid nearly $8,000 for holding wedding at theatre

Photos of promotional booklets featuring Sony Centre CEP Dan Brambilla and his wife. The couple was paid nearly $8,000 for the rights to use the wedding images in the promotional booklets. The booklets were provided to the media by Councilor David Shiner.

Elizabeth Church/The Globe and Mail

The CEO of Toronto's Sony Centre received almost $8,000 for promoting his wedding at the city-owned theatre, but took until the next year to settle the $15,153 tab with his employer, finds a new report from the city's auditor-general.

The report, made public Wednesday, highlights several questionable expense claims and payments made to the theatre's departing chief executive officer, Dan Brambilla, the latest in a series of allegations involving the former Livent executive who retires his month.

"It's an enormous laundry list of indiscretions," said Councillor Pam McConnell, who recently joined the theatre's board. Ms. McConnell said anyone who reads the report will understand why the city's audit committee is recommending council take tighter control of the theatre by installing a temporary board. The theatre's eight citizen directors resigned en masse last week and council voted late Wednesday to install an interim board with five councillors and three senior city staff.

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Councillor David Shiner, on the board until Wednesday, said the former directors, appointed after the period examined by the audit, were trying to fix the situation and laid part of the blame with city staff. "The foxes are in the henhouse," he said of the new board.

Mr. Brambilla declined to discuss the latest findings, referring questions to a statement issued on behalf of the theatre's management.

In addition to the payment for his wedding – made in exchange for permission to use it in promotions for a decade – Mr. Brambilla routinely charged for half the cost of meals at the theatre's cafeteria, the report states. He charged the city facility $890 for a holiday lunch for seven where alcohol accounted for 38 per cent of the bill, expensed hundreds of dollars for tickets to political fundraisers and airfare for two trips with his wife – one of which he later repaid, the report says.

Asked about the wedding deal, Auditor-General Jeffery Griffiths told councillors, " We found that to be a very odd transaction."

While Mr. Brambilla's pay is not public, Mr. Griffiths confirmed part of it is paid in U.S. dollars.

The auditor-general's report found that between 2002 and 2008 the CEO was compensated as a consultant to the theatre, a practice ended by the Canada Revenue Agency. Stage-by-Stage Holdings, a company wholly owned by Mr. Brambilla, received $572,000 for a business plan, the audit found.

Another contract paid $532,000 over three years to an unnamed "independent contractor" for sponsorship services.

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These latest revelations follow a scathing audit that uncovered alleged accounting irregularities in connection with the theatre's renovation, including allegations of sole-source contracts and missing documents. They also follow revelations by The Globe that Mr. Brambilla used the theatre's law firm to prepare a management takeover bid in 2012. The bid was the focus of an internal investigation that has never been made public and the law firm reimbursed the theatre for the charges, sources confirmed.

The statement by the theatre's management describes the wedding deal as "reasonable" given the length of the promotion contract and the fact that the CEO was "using his wedding to 'beta test' the food service."

The $15,153 bill for the September, 2010, wedding was paid in 2011, the audit report states.

As for expensing of cafeteria, the statement says the CEO was "conducting quality control testing" and notes only half the cost was expensed because Mr. Brambilla's wife joined him.

The CEO's compensation was recorded as part of the business plan because the former chair of the board's finance committee believed the accounting treatment "more properly reflected the nature of the work," the statement says.

The city "may have a policy" against covering the expense of holiday parties, but "it is not clear that this policy strictly applies to independent boards," it says.

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