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.
October 12, 2021 (3 Minute Read)
(Photo: Councillors Bowman, Williams and Dhillon)
With Files from Kuwarjeet Singh
Part Two of a Three Part Series
Flower City Part Two: The Aftermath – Deloitte $500,000 Investigation Clears CAO and Staff of Allegations
Gurdeep Kaur was a Director for the City of Brampton, which included the government relations portfolio. Given her quest to become a Member of Parliament, city officials transferred her to a Director role in the Planning Department to avoid any real or perceived conflicts of interest.
On April 21, Kaur lost her federal nomination to represent the Conservatives for Brampton West in the 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 to the Ontario Ombudsman, Peel Region Police Services, and ordered an external independent investigation.
The Office of the Ontario Ombudsman responded that they would not be proceeding with an investigation as the matter was subject to an ongoing police investigation, and, the City was conducting an independent investigation.
Thereafter, Peel Region Police Services wrote to the City. They concluded that given purchases were made in compliance with City policies, “…we have no information on which to base any further investigation”. It was also revealed that Gurdeep Kaur, the complainant, “declined to participate in the process”.
The Deloitte Selection
Confidential sources have advised the Bramptonist, to ensure there was no perception of political interference, Councillor Jeff Bowman introduced a motion to authorize City Clerk Peter Fay to be the sole person in retaining an independent firm to conduct the investigation. Bowman’s motion was unanimously supported by all Council members, with a stipulation that the firm should not have been retained by the City before.
Without any interference by the Mayor, Councillors, or senior management, Peter Fay selected Deloitte. In turn, Deloitte assigned the investigation to one of their forensic teams, which included forensic auditors, workplace investigators, researchers and data analysts.
Thereafter, Councillor Jeff Bowman has been openly critical of the Deloitte selection. However, he refuses to discuss the matter with the Bramptonist, and thereby refusing to answer why he thinks Peter Fay should not have selected Deloitte.
Bowman, joined by City Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon and Charmaine Williams, is refusing to accept the independent investigation process and results. They continue in their electioneering strategy to create political controversy. Interestingly, Councillor Williams has joined forces with Councillor Dhillon, who she previously asked to resign 74 times for his sexual misconduct with a Brampton business woman.
Despite the political attempts to derail the process, Deloitte prepared a confidential report on their findings. Council made the unprecedented decision to release the report in public. The public report concluded that the investigators “…did not identify any evidence that the appointment or hiring of individuals was not within the CAO’s authority, particularly within the Office of the CAO.”
In regards to purchases, Deloitte found that other than the filing of proper paperwork, all City policies were followed. The paperwork was actually attributed to Kaur, the complainant, herself.
The municipal politics of Brampton has always been contentious. Although, this term of Council has seen Councillors generally cooperate with each other, there is still a number of politicians who revel in controversy.
As such, there are some Councillors who are dismissing the $500,000 Deloitte report, as they would welcome continued strife and disorder leading up to the next municipal election. There are also non-Bramptonians who are promoting the Ontario Ombudsman re-investigate the issues for a third time. The Ombudsman has already reviewed hiring practices twice before.
In their first review, Ombudsman lawyer Jean-Frederic Hubsch wrote, “As we discussed, our review indicates that the City has policies and practices in place to protect the fairness and transparency of staff/official hiring…Our review did not identify any concerns with respect to the application of existing policies to the hiring processes in question”. In the second review, another Ombudsman lawyer dismissed the allegations and recommended, “policies developed by other municipalities to help insulate their complaint processes from abusive, unreasonable, persistent, or harassing members of the public”.
Still after two previous Ombudsman investigations, a police service review, and a $500,000 independent Deloitte investigation, city hall critics are electioneering and demanding for a third Ombudsman review.
However, an ongoing civil lawsuit may hamper the quest of these political pundits.
The Ongoing Civil Lawsuit
In her allegations, Gurdeep Kaur accused HR Director Sandeep Aujla of making racist comments. In response, Aujla commenced a $200,000 defamation lawsuit against Kaur.
When contacted by the Bramptonist, Aujla commented, “I have never made racist statements, nor otherwise engaged in acts of discrimination or corruption.”
Aujla’s lawyer, Alex Van Kralingen, continues, “Over the course of the five month investigation, Ms. Aujla ‘leaned in’ to the process and engaged fully with the investigators. She provided the investigators with more than 800 pages of communications and other evidence”, he continued, “Deloitte LLP’s investigation report revealed that none of Ms. Kaur’s allegations of racism, discrimination and illegality were substantiated.”
When contacted by the Bramptonist, Gurdeep Kaur’s lawyer, Lorne Honickman, wrote, “In our opinion, for several reasons, the Report fails to properly address many of the concerns Ms. Kaur brought forward, not the least of which is the fact they didn’t even complete the full investigation. Some allegations were not dealt with”, he further states, “With respect to the allegations they did investigate, there are several examples of where, in our opinion, the conclusions and findings are woefully lacking in reasoning and analysis, especially where credibility was an important factor.”
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.
It would appear, on the facts made public, CAO Barrick and senior management followed all corporate policies and procedures as it relates to hiring practices and purchasing of consultant services. The actions of the CAO are typical of the decisions made by many other municipal CAOs in Ontario. Under the Municipal Act, municipal CAO’s are given the authority to exercise the management of the corporation ensuring the efficient and effective operation of the municipality.
The political pundits at Brampton City Hall appear to not like the selection of administrators at City Hall. Their political activism tarnishes the professional reputation of the City and its employees, leading to considerable liability of the corporation.
In addition to attacking the professionalism of its employees, the controversies divert resources and energy away from the many priority projects of Brampton. This includes road infrastructure, public transit, and economic development. Remarkably, the Brampton administration have achieved a number of successes in completing City Council’s strategic priorities.
The aftermath is simply more electioneering. The civil lawsuit complicates the matter, which involves two City Directors digging in with their opposing positions. As for provincial legislation, the Ombudsman’s Office typically does not review matters that are before the courts.
The Bramptonist will continue to follow this story and the continued electioneering.
- Flower City Part One: Deloitte’s $500,000 Investigation Clears CAO and Staff of Allegations (September 29, 2021)
- Flower City Part Two: The Aftermath (October 14, 2021)
- Flower City Part Three: Inside Politics – The Story Behind the Story (Coming Soon)