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Brampton mayor, Susan Fennell broke spending rules, audit says

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Brampton mayor, Susan Fennell broke spending rules, audit says

Susan Fennell and councillor’s expenses audited after four-month investigation.

Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell and her staff breached a number of the city’s spending rules 265 times for expenses such as high-cost airfare, premium hotel rooms and personal expenses, a forensic audit has found.

In total, Fennell and her staff had 265 transactions for $131,581 in charges and expenses that breached city rules (not including what was reimbursed) and another 79 transactions for $155,952 in charges and expenses that might have breached city rules, but not enough information was provided by Fennell or the city to make a determination, the audit by Deloitte Canada said.

The audit, released late Tuesday after a four-month investigation, also found numerous spending violations by other members of council.

It cleared Fennell of using staff since 2010 during business hours to help organize her private fundraising events, including her annual gala and golf tournament, and found no wrongdoing for her business-related travel to Florida in support of a Sister City agreement.

Fennell released a statement late Tuesday evening: “I have not read all of the report. I accept much of what it has to say, but not all of what it has to say…If there are changes that need to be made, I will make them.”

Fennell’s statement also accused the Star of publishing “unfair, unwarranted and inaccurate material” for months. The full text is available on thestar.com.

Instances of rules breached by Fennell and her staff over the past seven years, according to the audit included:

  • Expense policy breaches in 89 transactions totaling $70,615 for flight passes since 2010 that exceeded economy class airfare, contrary to the city’s rules.
  • More than $10,000 charged by Fennell on her city-issued credit card in Florida that was not for city business. Most of these charges were reimbursed by Fennell’s private gala.
  • More than $20,000 charged by Fennell and her staff on their city issued credit cards in Florida and across Canada that was not for city business, including at restaurants, for airfare, jewelry and department store purchases. Most of these were reimbursed.
  • About a half-dozen stays at hotels that were booked by Fennell and her staff at premium room rates
  • Nine cellphone charges by Fennell for 44 IQ quizzes that cost $220.

The other 10 members of council had a total of $42,979 in expenses and charges that breached the city’s rules, and another $31,040 that might have breached the rules, the audit found.

“We express no opinion as to whether the information presented in this report is sufficient to establish civil or criminal wrongdoing, as only a court can determine these matters,” the auditors note.

The audit also found that Fennell had 38 transactions totaling $144,150 for her 24/7 on call limousine service that may have breached the city’s expense and spending policies, but neither Fennell nor the car service company provided sufficient reports to show what the mayor used the service for.

The report cleared her of using staff for her annual private gala and golf tournament since 2010, stating they did minimal work during business hours. However, some city resources were used to help organize the events which raise money for local community groups.

The audit also cleared Fennell and her staff for business-related travel to Florida in 2007, 2008 and 2009, stating that it was in support of Brampton’s Sister City dealings with Miami Beach. And it said her first-class airfare for trade missions to Asia complied with the city’s rules.

A contract given to the company owned by a close friend of Fennell’s was also reviewed by the audit. It found that a 2010 $4,725 charge to a staffer’s credit card to hire event planning company Meri-Mac may have been split into two invoices to avoid purchasing rules.

Councillor John Sanderson, who called for the audit and is running against Fennell in this year’s mayoral election, also did not escape the report’s critical findings.

One of the transactions he made that violated the city’s rules was a $506 airfare charge for his wife in 2013 while he was attending a municipal conference. He reimbursed the amount three months later. Another $103 charge for his wife’s airfare in 2011 for a another city-related conference was not reimbursed. Sanderson said that was an oversight and he will reimburse the amount immediately.

He added that the audit’s results are “fair and they now let Brampton residents really know what’s been going on. We need to use this as a constructive document to make sure all of this gets cleaned up.”

The audit by Deloitte Canada was called by council after the Star revealed Fennell’s spending. The audit broke down expenses into three categories: expenses that broke the rules, expenses that may have broken the rules and expenses for which there was not enough information to make a determination.

Fennell had billed $186,000 in discretionary spending over three years, as taxpayers unknowingly picked up the tab for things such as Fennell’s $1,300 Mandarin language lessons, the $500-a-night downtown Toronto hotel stay for the lessons, $2,100 for personalized barbecue aprons, $1,500 for Rose Orchestra tickets and $1 iTunes downloads.

Freedom of information requests also revealed Fennell and her staff charged $185,000 for travel over five years, including $2,832 for a four-night stay at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, $1,847 for a return flight to Ottawa and $5,975 for one return flight to the Philippines.

Then, credit card statements obtained by the Star showed Fennell and her staff racked up $663,000 in charges over six years, including $28,006 for a 10-day stay at London’s InterContinental Hotel charged by Fennell and her chief of staff Ian Newman.

Other charges included: $4,404 for Fennell to fly to London; about $4,000 for Fennell, her husband and two friends to fly to Florida and about $1,850 for car rentals on the trip (Fennell later said the amount was reimbursed to the city); 39 charges on Fennell’s city credit card at Shoppers Drug Mart totaling $2,937; 13 charges at the LCBO totaling $1,946; $2,445 charged by Fennell’s scheduling assistant Sandra Carpino at an online jewelry store; about $1,000 in 407 toll charges for Fennell’s city vehicle in 2012 alone; and about 260 gas station charges, including multiple ones on the same day, totaling $16,000.

About $45,000 of the overall charges were reimbursed, $24,294 by Fennell’s private gala which raises funds for local community groups, $10,680 by Fennell herself, and $6,009 by Carpino, who also charged flights to Atlanta for her and her family.

Councillor John Sanderson, who is challenging Fennell for the mayor’s job in this year’s election, called for the audit which was unanimously supported by fellow councillors after they failed to get clarification for much of the spending from Fennell.

In April Fennell told council that “No monkey business” was going on, regarding her charges and expenses.

, Urban Affairs Reporter

Canadian News

Ontario to reopen province, guiding principles unveiled

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Ontario to reopen province, guiding principles unveiled

THE Ontario government on Monday released A Framework for Reopening our Province, which outlines the criteria Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will use to advise the government on the loosening of emergency measures, as well as guiding principles for the safe, gradual reopening of businesses, services and public spaces.

The framework also provides details of an outreach strategy, led by the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, to help inform the restart of the provincial economy.

Details were provided by Premier Doug Ford, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“Our top priority remains protecting the health and safety of the people of Ontario and supporting our frontline heroes as we do everything in our power to contain and defeat this deadly virus,” said Ford. “At the same time, we are preparing for the responsible restart of our economy. This next phase of our response to COVID-19 is designed to help us map out what needs to be done, and when, to get us back on the road to recovery.”

The government is planning a stage-by-stage approach to reopening the economy to ensure there are appropriate measures in place so workplaces can open safely. Public health officials will carefully monitor each stage for two to four weeks, as they assess the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak to determine if it is necessary to change course to maintain public health.

  • Stage 1: For businesses that were ordered to close or restrict operations, opening select workplaces that can immediately modify operations to meet public health guidance. Opening some outdoor spaces like parks and allowing for a greater number of individuals to attend some events. Hospitals would also begin to offer some non-urgent and scheduled surgeries, and other health care services.
  • Stage 2: Opening more workplaces, based on risk assessments, which may include some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces. Some larger public gatherings would be allowed, and more outdoor spaces would open.
  • Stage 3: Opening of all workplaces responsibly and further relaxing of restrictions on public gatherings.

Throughout each stage, continued protections for vulnerable populations must be in place, along with the continued practice of physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, and significant mitigation plans to limit health risks.

“Recent public health indicators show us that we’re beginning to turn a corner in the COVID-19 outbreak, while economic data, feedback from businesses and insights from our communities are outlining how we need to plan for economic recovery,” said Phillips. “Turning on an economy after an unprecedented shut-down is not as simple as flipping a switch. We need to plan this out carefully to ensure we do not spark a sudden outbreak, undo the progress we have made and put the safety of the public at risk.”

To reopen the economy, the government will consider factors such as the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and the ability to implement protective measures to keep workplaces safe. The Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will provide advice to the government about easing public health measures using a range of set criteria, including:

  • A consistent two-to-four week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases;
  • Sufficient acute and critical care capacity, including access to ventilators and ongoing availability of personal protective equipment;
  • Approximately 90 per cent of new COVID-19 contacts are being reached by local public health officials within one day, with guidance and direction to contain community spread; and
  • Ongoing testing of suspected COVID-19 cases, especially of vulnerable populations, to detect new outbreaks quickly.

“It is because of the collective efforts of all Ontarians to stay at home and stop the spread of COVID-19 that we are able to consider plans to move into the next phase of our battle against this virus,” said Elliott. “The Chief Medical Officer of Health has outlined some criteria he will use to advise government on when we may begin to slowly and safely ease public health measures and restart our economy. To be able to do so, w e need everyone to continue their extraordinary efforts so that we can meet these thresholds and begin to move forward.”

Supporting the next phases of Ontario’s Action Plan, the new Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, chaired by Minister Phillips, will be consulting with key sectors in all regions to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the provincial economy and develop a plan to move forward. The government and Members of Provincial Parliament will lead discussions with business associations, chambers of commerce, municipal leaders, the postsecondary sector, corporate leaders, small business owners, community and social service providers, Indigenous partners, Franco-Ontarians, entrepreneurs and others.

The work of the committee will build on Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, the first phase of the government’s $17 billion response, that is delivering targeted relief for businesses and families across Ontario.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has had far-reaching economic impacts for businesses and communities across Ontario,” said Fedeli. “In the face of these challenges, businesses and individuals have stepped up to support our frontline workers, produce essential equipment and keep our supply chains moving. Our plan to carefully and methodically reopen Ontario’s economy will ensure that businesses are supported on our path to renewed economic prosperity.”

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Stephen Lecce, Ontario education minister appoints investigator to examine Peel District School Board

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Ontario education minister appoints investigator to examine Peel District School Board

ONTARIO’S Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, on Tuesday announced he has appointed Arleen Huggins to conduct an investigation into the Peel District School Board’s compliance with the Minister’s binding Directions to the Board issued on March 13.

“We expect our school leaders – trustees, senior administration, and educators – to ensure all students are learning in safe and inclusive classrooms,” said Lecce. “This is why effective, transparent, and accountable school board governance is essential to the success and well-being of students in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.”

Huggins is a practising lawyer with 30 years experience in employment law, human rights law, workplace harassment and discrimination investigations and commercial litigation. She is a former President of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers and a Former Chair of both the Canadian Bar Association Standing Committee on Equity and the Ontario Bar Association Equal Opportunity Committee.  Huggins was also on the founding Board of the African Canadian Legal Clinic and has served on the Doctors Without Borders Human Resources Committee and the federal Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee (JAAC) for the GTA.

With the issuance of 27 binding Directions to the Board on March 13, the minister provided clear direction with specific timelines and deliverables to address systemic discrimination, particularly anti-Black racism, as well as dysfunctional governance, leadership and human resources practices within the PDSB.

“When it comes to confronting racism and discrimination, I will not accept delay or inaction,” added Lecce. “The message I am sending is — do better. Our kids deserve better. And I will do whatever it takes to ensure these issues are addressed immediately and effectively.”

The Ontario Government said it is committed to ensuring PDSB complies with the minister’s binding directions so that parents, students and the community get the positive change that they need and deserve.

Huggins will deliver her report to the minister on or before May 18.

The PDSB is responsible for 257 schools in Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, and over 155,000 students representing a rich array of racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious backgrounds.

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COVID-19″ More Indo-Canadians returning are from India

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More flights carrying Canadians leave India

CANADIAN High Commissioner in New Delhi, Nadir Patel, tweeted on Wednesday morning that the 15th special flight from India to Canada – had left Mumbai, bringing home more Canadian travelers stranded in India.

He added: “More special flights taking place in the coming days, thanks to all for your patience while we work through the complexities.”

On Tuesday, the 14th special flight with Canadians took off from Kolkata and Patel tweeted: “Huge thanks to our colleagues Australian High Commissioner Barry O’Farrell & his team for collaborating to make this happen.”

The 13th special flight with Canadians had departed from Bangalore on Monday, covering six states in the south.

And last Sunday (April 26) the 12th special flight from India departed from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with nearly 300 Canadians aboard.

More flights carrying Canadians leave India

More flights carrying Canadians leave India

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