OTTAWA – An RCMP allegation that Sen. Mike Duffy awarded $65,000 in Senate contracts to a friend who did little actual work is the latest twist in the case of the embattled former Conservative.
The Mounties filed a production order in an Ottawa court on Tuesday to gain access to bank account records related to the allegation. They are looking at new allegations of fraud and breach of trust against Duffy, based on fresh findings.
“That investigation determined that Sen. Duffy hired a friend as a consultant over an approximate four-year period and paid him a total of approximately $65,000 during that time, for little or no apparent work,” wrote Cpl. Greg Horton, the lead investigator.
Duffy said in an email that it would be “inappropriate for me to comment while these matters are being examined by the RCMP.” No charges have been laid against Duffy.
Police had been building their case against Duffy using Senate documents obtained previously from the upper chamber. Initially, they scrutinized his housing and travel expenses and the $90,000 the prime minister’s former chief of staff gave him to repay questioned expense claims.
But while a auditor was sifting through those papers, he flagged a series of payments to Duffy friend Gerald Donahue, a former TV technician. The money represented 57 per cent of Duffy’s general Senate office expenses.
Between 2009 and 2012, Duffy asked the Senate to pay Donahue for a range of writing services including speeches, advice on web page design and development and general media consulting.
But Donahue told police that he didn’t do any writing and never produced any tangible document, report or work product and never worked on the website.
His company also didn’t have any other employees, even though Duffy once told the Senate that Donahue had brought in “additional staff.”
“The work he performed for Duffy was limited to research and verbal advice,” says the police report of an interview, adding that it was Duffy who devised a $200 an hour “inflated” payment.
The RCMP points out that Donahue was a TV technician for most of his working life, with no consulting experience.
Donahue told police that he didn’t personally get the money. He said he has been on disability and so could not receive such income. His company, Maple Ridge Media Inc. (later Ottawa ICF), was under his wife’s name.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the latest allegations demonstrate yet again why he believes the “unelected, unaccountable and under indictment” Senate needs to be abolished.
“Sixty-five thousand dollars is more money than most Canadian families earn in a year,” he said.
“It’s treated like chump change by senators who are unaccountable and unelected and it’s a scandal … What else has been going on in the Senate? That’s what Canadians want to know.”
The Mounties are also seeking bank records for Sen. Patrick Brazeau, another former member of the Conservative caucus, in connection with disallowed housing claims.