Toronto Star


Brampton’s new mayor, Linda Jeffrey, will have to contend with problems left by previous administra­tions,


Following a tumultuous four years at Brampton City Hall, 2015 could be just as rocky, as the newly elected council tries to find answers about what happened during former mayor Susan Fennell’s 14-year tenure.

There’s a long list of reviews, reports and investigat­ions now underway, and new mayor Linda Jeffrey has promised to act on the findings.

The new year is likely to see the results of an ongoing police investigat­ion of council spending, two external reviews of the city’s finances and the interim auditor general’s investigat­ion into a controvers­ial downtown redevelopm­ent project. All of this while the province’s ombudsman, André Marin, has been asked to conduct a wide-scale probe of the scandal-plagued municipali­ty.

In December, George Rust-D’Eye, the city’s interim auditor general, announced he expects to have a final report completed by late January on the redevelopm­ent project, which Fennell supported. The expansion of city hall, now a year behind schedule, and other work awarded to Dominus Constructi­on in 2011 has been at the centre of a $28.5-million lawsuit filed against the city by Inzola Group, which alleges it was unfairly disqualifi­ed from the bidding process used in a project that could cost taxpayers more than $500 million for all three phases. The city denies the lawsuit’s claims.

After the release of court documents in the case, council called for an internal investigat­ion of the project. Rust-D’Eye released a preliminar­y report in October based on documents and interviews.

In the report, Rust-D’Eye said that allegation­s of “possible payback” or improper lobbying were raised, as were claims that staff misled council, costs were miscalcula­ted and that the city showed favouritis­m in its awarding of the contract. But RustD’Eye’s report said all the claims still needed to be fully investigat­ed.

Rust-D’Eye stressed in his report that none of the allegation­s against Dominus, city staff, council or any other party involved in the project have been proven.

Hearings in the court case against the city are expected to begin in 2015.

In 2015, Brampton council will also have to deal with two reviews of the city’s finances. Those reviews follow a report from the C.D. Howe Institute think-tank that ranked Brampton near the bottom of Canadian cities for budget accuracy; an internal audit that found rules were being broken in the city’s handling of con- tracts; and an alarming 2014 report that the city had lost track of millions of dollars approved for capital projects.

One review of the city’s finances will come from external consultant­s, after council approved the oversight measure in June. In December, the Jeffrey-led council hired former Ontario auditor general Jim McCarter as an interim investigat­or to review the city’s books.

Separately, Jeffrey has asked ombudsman Marin to conduct a probe of the city’s practices, now that he has new powers to investigat­e municipali­ties thanks to the passage of Bill 8 in December.

Police will also weigh in on affairs at city hall. The Ontario Provincial Police are currently conducting an investigat­ion of spending by Fennell and others based on a 2014 external audit done by Deloitte Canada. Council passed a motion last August to send the audit findings for a police investigat­ion after it was revealed that Fennell and her staff broke spending rules 266 times, totalling $172,608. They may also have violated rules a further 79 times in transactio­ns totalling $155,952, but the auditors said they were not supplied with enough informatio­n by Fennell to make a determinat­ion as to whether or not those dealings were for city business.

The audit recommende­d Fennell pay back $34,118, but on appeal the amount was reduced to $3,522.97.

Council expects the OPP to finalize its investigat­ion this year.

Ten current and former councillor­s are also under review by the OPP for $42,979 in misspent money. The city’s integrity commission­er, Robert Swayze, found only Fennell “knowingly” violated rules after he reviewed the Deloitte audit.

Fennell was handed the maximum penalty by council, a loss of 90 days’ pay. Council also ordered her to pay back $144,000 used for a limousine service, out of the $155,952 in expenses that the ex-mayor could not account for.

 ??  ?? Ontario ombudsman André Marin is to probe the inner workings of Brampton city hall next year.
Ontario ombudsman André Marin is to probe the inner workings of Brampton city hall next year.

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