Council shuts down Brampton University audit after draft report finds possible conflict of interest

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Published August 26, 2022 at 5:24 pm

A forensic dive into the scrapped Brampton University project has been frozen despite auditors finding a councillor may have a conflict of interest with a consultant on the project.

A motion in council chambers passed by a 5-4 vote on Friday (Aug. 26), putting an early end to an audit into more than $629,000 of taxpayer funds paid to consultants with nearly half of the deliverables unable to be found.

The motion called for “any further work be ceased” on the audit, and that a draft report presented to council “be received as final.”

But a draft report on the audit states there were still a number of interviews left to be conducted, including with consultants Daivd Wheeler and Rob Godfrey, several current and former City staffers, and Councillor Rowena Santos.

The draft also says there was “a potential conflict of interest for Councillor Santos” on the university project “due to a personal friendship and mentorship with Dr. Wheeler,” who is Santos’ former professor and one of the consultants on the project.

Mayor Patrick Brown and Councillors Rowena Santos, Paul Vicente, Michale Palleschi and Harkirat Singh voted in favour of ending the audit prematurely, while Councillors Jeff Bowman, Martin Medeiros, Pat Fortini and Doug Whillans voted against the motion.

Councillors routinely excuse themselves from discussions or voting on issues where they have a real or perceived conflict of interest, but Santos voted on the motion despite being named in the draft report.

Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon – who has recently voted as part of a bloc with Bowman, Medeiros, Fortini and Whillans – was absent from the meeting at the time of the vote.

Froese Forensic Partners was contracted by the city to conduct the audit, but staff said the firm had surpassed an estimated budget for the project. City Interim CAO Paul Morrison said the firm had requested additional funds to complete the investigation, but council voted instead to wind down the audit entirely.

The remaining interviews will not go forward now that council has voted to scrap the audit.

The city’s integrity commissioner has been called in to look into possible conflicts of interest between Santos and Wheeler.

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