City of Brampton staff, both current and former, have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing following an investigation by police into a secret staff bonus program, much to the confusion of council.
Last June a staff report revealed that hundreds of thousands of dollars, to the tune of $1.25 million according to initial reports, were paid out to city employees without council knowing.
There was public outcry after the audit’s findings were revealed, which prompted council to vote unanimously for an investigation by police into possible criminal wrongdoing.
Now the investigation report has come back stating that the bonus payouts, referred to as Outside Policy Requests (OPR), were not criminal.
City councillors voiced their confusion in a meeting on Wednesday, wondering how and why new reports surrounding the investigation contradict the original findings revealed in June.
“I’m surprised that they’re saying now that this program was approved by council when we were told initially by staff that it wasn’t,” said Regional Councillor John Sprovieri.
The initial internal audit report in June stated that a total of $1.25 million had been paid out to non-union staff between January 1, 2009 and May 14, 2014, with payouts as high as $95,000 in some cases.
The latest investigation found that $614,155 was actually paid out to 167 employees, half of what was initially reported.
But city council says the new report raises more questions than answers. Regional Councillor Martin Medeiros is calling for an external investigation, voicing concern over the fact that the program operated for so long, seemingly without council’s knowledge.
“I don’t want this simply brushed under the carpet,” said Medeiros at Wednesday’s council meeting.
Back in June when the initial probe was to be voted on by council it was suggested that Peel Regional Police relinquish the case to an outside body in order to avoid any conflicts of interest.
Police Chief Jennifer Evans told the Guardian that “Peel Regional Police conducted a thorough and impartial investigation which determined there was no criminal wrongdoing. I am confident in that.”
The latest report clears staff of any criminal acts and revealed that the expenditures were approved by council through the city’s budget process that takes place annually. Council argued that if this were the case, budget line items were not revealed, giving no indication that they were approving such a program.
The issue will be debated over the coming weeks of council, though it isn’t clear what actions–if any–council plans to take.