Toronto Mayor Doug Ford, in new probe, attacked city body

Image copyright Facebook Image caption Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell says the report ‘vindicates’ city officials, but questions remain

Tory leader Doug Ford says an inquiry into staff complaints about the mayor of the Toronto suburb of Brampton is “a farce.”

Last year, the city’s director of human resources and administration resigned after receiving complaints from city staff.

Thursday’s report concluded city officials had acted correctly.

Responding to the release of the report, the mayor of Brampton, Susan Fennell, said the probe “vindicated” city officials, but questions remained.

“I hope this investigation and this report can now move forward to healing our city,” Mayor Fennell said in a statement on Wednesday.

New report suggests respect and trust is lacking

The report, called the “integrity audit” and released by Toronto city council’s integrity commissioner, stated that the complaints “presented a combination of allegations, speculation and evidence that might be considered allegations or evidence of an overriding concern about councilor Fennell’s conduct”, and that a “more comprehensive” inquiry was warranted.

The council voted unanimously to pursue the audit.

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, one of the city’s mayor-in-waiting, told the BBC that it’s important to take it seriously.

“We are a very civic-minded people in Brampton, and I think we have experienced this process as there have been previous investigations,” he said.

Since resigning in April, former city manager Susan DeVeau has denied allegations of misconduct against her, saying she did nothing wrong.

When asked whether she was pleased with the report, Ms DeVeau told the BBC that she wasn’t at the meeting in which it was voted on but that the report doesn’t alter her opinion that it’s not true.

“The report makes me feel more vindicated that the other allegations are simply unsubstantiated, but I still believe I’m being torn apart unjustly,” she said.

It’s not the first time Ms DeVeau has come under scrutiny for her work in Brampton, which is one of Canada’s fastest-growing areas.

In 2012, councillors voted to close a public preschool for children of the mayor, son of municipal leader Doug Ford, because the owner of the childcare centre had had run-ins with staff at Brampton City Hall.

One of the councillors, also the mayor’s brother, who was then the city councillor, blamed Ms DeVeau for the closure, saying she “brought this to a grinding halt”.

Mayor Ford also has a reputation for micromanaging city staff and for introducing a strict code of conduct for city staff.

In 2014, he took part in a video tour of a strip club he owns, according to some media reports. The reports said he also ordered police officers to wear that body armour while patrolling the club and he said he was unconcerned about the weapons.

But if the mayor of one of Canada’s largest cities and a city council member have different opinions on the report’s findings, others say the investigation is incomplete.

The City of Toronto’s integrity commissioner said she agreed with Ms DeVeau that the findings should be rewritten.

“This is not a ‘done deal’ and it is not the end of the road, she said.

Ms DeVeau said she found evidence of “prejudice” against her at the city in the form of verbal attacks, racial slurs and intimidation against her and other staff, according to the report.

Concerns included that one of the mayor’s cousins, Errol, had been hired to perform as a makeup artist for her and she had received threats, the report said.

Despite the allegations, the report said the city followed proper procedures in hiring Errol to be in charge of the mayor’s wardrobe.

It also said there was evidence that the mayor’s family had offered to meet with Mr Mammoliti to discuss his remuneration and advised her to create a conflict-of-interest policy.

In the end, Ms DeVeau decided not to pursue action on the allegations.

In a statement released Thursday, the mayor-in-waiting said that given what has happened “to Susan Fennell, the mayor was vindicated”, but he “lacks confidence in the process used to produce this report”.

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