After an investigation that has costed taxpayers $500,000 to date, forensic auditors from Deloitte concludes that all city policies were followed, debunking allegations from whistleblower.

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September 29, 2021 (3 Minute Read)

With Files from Kuwarjeet Singh

Part One of a Three Part Series

Flower City Part One: Deloitte $500,000 Investigation Clears CAO and Staff of Allegations

The morning after losing her federal nomination bid for Brampton West, Gurdeep (Nikki) Kaur filed explosive allegations towards the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) David Barrick and several members of the City’s senior management staff. Bypassing corporate policies, Kaur filed her complaints directly to City Council, and for full impact, to all media outlets. Given the nature of the allegations, Council immediately sent the allegations to the Ontario Ombudsman, Peel Region Police Services, and, directed an external independent investigation.

Operating independently from the CAO and Council, City Clerk Peter Fay retained the services of Deloitte, who assigned the file to their forensic auditors, workplace investigators and researchers. In an unprecedented move, the $500,000 Deloitte report was publicly released yesterday evening. The Deloitte forensic auditors concluded all the allegations filed by Gurdeep Kaur were unsubstantiated.

The Cause and Effect

On April 21, City employee Gurdeep Kaur lost her federal nomination bid to Jermaine Chambers in a bid to represent the Conservatives for Brampton West federal election. The morning after, she filed allegations of criminal activity, unfair hiring practices, and manipulated purchasing from the CAO’s office.

Given the seriousness of the allegations, City Council forwarded the allegations of corruption to the Ontario Ombudsman, Peel Region Police Services, and ordered an external independent investigation. To avoid the perception of bias, Council authorized City Clerk Peter Fay to retain an independent firm to conduct the investigation. Council stipulated that the firm should not have been retained by the City before. Peter Fay selected Deloitte, who in turn, assigned the investigation to their forensic audit team.

To ensure all allegations could be reviewed, Council also directed the City Clerk to open a city web portal in order to gather any other allegations from existing staff, former staff, and the general public. All other complaints remained anonymous and could be filed directly with Deloitte to ensure anonymity.

Given that the allegations leveled by Gurdeep Kaur were widely distributed to local media, Council made the unprecedented move to discussing the allegations publicly at Council. Furthermore, they published the final report on the public agenda for fill accountability and transparency. This move may have caused significant financial risk to the corporation, as the accused have been exonerated in a report that was marked privilege and confidential.

The Investigative Response

Having been assigned to conduct an external independent investigation, the forensic auditors at Deloitte commenced their review. In addition to April 22nd email containing Kaur’s allegations, Deloitte received and reviewed an additional 40 allegations via the anonymous portal and 10 associated allegations from the City’s Internal Audit Division.

With all allegations collected and categorized, Deloitte interviewed 21 current and former employees and 3 city contractors. They reviewed 1.2 million files (292 GB) of emails of employees and contractors. And they confiscated the cell phones of CAO Barrick and Gurdeep Kaur. (Note: The cell phone from Gurdeep Kaur was damaged prior to being submitted to Deloitte, thereby no data was recovered).

Throughout the investigative process, Deloitte communicated directly with Peter Fay as the sole City liaison, to ensure complete independency. As CAO Barrick was a respondent to the allegations, he recused himself from all matters pertaining to the investigation.

Of the 27 allegations investigated, Deloitte found no wrongdoing by the accused staff. This overall conclusion costed taxpayers approximately $500,000. The Bramptonist summarized the allegations and associated conclusions:

  • Allegation Category A: Improper Appointments of Eight Staff
    • Reference: Deloitte Paragraph 29
    • Deloitte Findings
      • No evidence CAO acted beyond his authority (Paragraph 35)
      • No city policies or Standard Operating Procedures were contravened (Paragraphs 40, 43)
      • 4/5 hires appear to comply with City policies (Paragraph 58)
  • Allegation Category B: Five Improper Hiring Panels
    • Reference: Deloitte Paragraph 50
    • Deloitte Findings
      • Hire of complainant (Gurdeep Kaur) may have contravened recruitment and retaining top talent policy, though was not the specific violation alleged by the anonymous (Gurdeep Kaur) reporter (Paragraph 57)
  • Allegation Category C: Six Procurement (Purchasing) Violations
    • Reference: Deloitte Paragraph 59
    • Deloitte Findings
      • 4/6 contracts complies with purchasing bylaw and no conflict of interest found (Paragraphs 73, 87, 95, 99)
      • 1/6 contract non compliant due to missing documentation (Paragraph 77)
      • 1/6 non compliant due to lack of completed/approved documentation (Paragraph 99)
  • Allegation Category D: HR Director Comment “Black People Are Dumb”
    • Reference: Deloitte Paragraph 100
    • Deloitte Findings
      • Complaint Not Substantiated (Paragraph 104)
  • Allegation Category E: HR Director Made Discriminatory Remarks at Black Advisory Council Meeting
    • Reference: Deloitte Paragraph 105
    • Deloitte Findings
      • Allegation Not Substantiated
  • Allegation Category F: Anonymous Reports Around Homophobic, Racist, Bullying Behaviour within Human Resources
    • Reference: Deloitte Paragraph 109
    • Deloitte Findings
      • Allegations lacked sufficient detail to investigate further (Paragraph 110)
  • Allegation Category G: Allegation CAO Created Hate for 2 Employees
    • Reference: Deloitte Paragraph 111
    • Deloitte Findings
      • No conclusion reached due to conclusion of investigation September 15, 2021.
  • Allegation Category F: Anonymous Report Gurdeep Kaur intimidated staff by referencing relationship with an elected official
    • Reference: Deloitte Paragraph 118
    • Deloitte Findings
      • No conclusion reached due to conclusion of investigation September 15, 2021.
  • Allegation Category H: CAO Barrick Destroyed Evidence
    • Reference: Deloitte Paragraphs 120, 121
    • Deloitte Findings:
      • Allegation not substantiated (Paragraph 123)
  • Allegation Category I: Director Blaine Lucas demanding raised and then granted outside proper approval process
    • Reference: Deloitte Paragraph 124
    • Deloitte Findings
      • No evidence of a raise being given to Employee B (Blaine Lucas) outside of standard process nor due to favoritism from a pre-existing relationship (Paragraph 127)
  • Allegation Category J: CAO Barrick, HR Director Aujla, and Director Blaine Lucas conspired to create a “fake conflict”
    • Reference: Deloitte Paragraph 128
    • Deloitte Findings
      • Deloitte did not find any policy violations with regard to complainant (Gurdeep Kaur) transfer (Paragraph 131)

Shadows of the Truth

What was interesting in the Deloitte investigation, was the actions of the complainant, Gurdeep Kaur, herself.

First, when her cell phone was confiscated, it was submitted to Deloitte damaged. Thus, Deloitte could not retrieve the data from the damaged phone.

Then, Deloitte revealed there may have been a policy violation with her own hire.

Third, Kaur alleged that HR Director Sandeep Aujla made discriminatory remarks at a Black Council meeting. A tape recording of the meeting was reviewed by Deloitte, the recording revealed the allegation was false.

Finally, Kaur alleged that Blaine Lucas demanded a raise after 6 months. However, Deloitte found evidence that Kaur emailed HR asking how to provide a raise to an employee after 6 months, suggesting this was part of the pre-employment negotiating between Kaur and Lucas. Further, the raise followed all existing policy protocols.

What’s Next

Council will be discussing the report today.

The Bramptonist will be following this story and is preparing:

  • Flower City Part Two: The Aftermath
  • Flower City Part Three: Inside Politics – The Story Behind the Story