Senate demands Mike Duffy repay $16,995 in ‘ineligible expenses’

Months after Senator Mike Duffy was acquitted of all 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery, Senate officials want Duffy to pay back $16,955 in what they call ineligible expenses.

The clerk of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy sent Duffy a letter spelling out why they think he owes the Senate money.

“New information surfaced in the public domain including the judgement as well as additional supporting documentation, which warranted an assessment of the eligibility of some expenses,” Nicole Proulx’s June 8 letter reads.

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    Those expenses include $10,000 for the services of personal trainer Mike Croskery, $300 for a makeup artist, a $500 payment to one of Duffy’s office volunteers, Ashley Cain, in 2010 and $8 for personal photos.

    READ MORE: The seven Duffy claims the Senate wants back

    The year-long trial heard Duffy paid for those expenses through companies run by his friend Gerald Donohue: Maple Ridge Media and Ottawa ICF.

    Mounties charged the companies were actually slush funds which Duffy used to pay expenses he knew would not be covered by the Senate.

    Each of the expenses being re-examined by the Senate were all ruled non-criminal by Ontario Superior Court judge Charles Vaillancourt.

    In an interview with Global News, Duffy’s lawyer Donald Bayne pointed out Vaillancourt went even further in his detailed judgement. “Justice Vaillancourt ruled on all of these expenses, that they were appropriate under the then rules,” says Bayne.

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    Proulx says the Senate’s chief financial officer reviewed the expenses and “the conclusion was that if the information had been disclosed or known prior to procession contract or payment, the requests would have been considered non-compliant with applicable Senate Administrative Rules and policies.”

    The Conservative-dominated Standing Committee on Internal Economy gave Duffy 10 days to defend himself.

    “This post-judgement, post-penalty attempt to pursue the same expense matters is a further compounding of injustice upon injustice, and should be stopped,” responded Bayne.

    Bayne’s 15-page response details each expense in question, referring back to Justice Vaillancourt’s judgement where the judge wrote, “The recipients of the funds from Maple Ridge Media and Ottawa ICF met the criteria for Senate business.”

    READ MORE: Duffy’s expenses could still be examined by Auditor-General

    Vaillancourt ruled the expenses before the court all met the test of the Senate’s rules at the time.

    Duffy’s lawyer points out the Senator’s nearly two-year suspension from the upper chamber lacked due process and resulted in the former journalist’s net loss of $155,876. According to Bayne, asking to repay $8 for personal photos “smacks of petty vindictiveness.”

    In a statement the chair and vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy,  Senators Leo Housakos and Jane Cordy, said finance officials found some expenses “did not appear to be eligible,” and gave Duffy the opportunity to submit documentation, which will now be taken into consideration. They have submitted his file to the dispute resolution process, the same process used by 14 of the 30 Senators whose expenses were flagged by the auditor general’s two-year long examination of all Senators expenses.

    Duffy was excluded from the auditor general’s review as he was facing criminal charges at the time. Senators Pamela Wallin, Mac Harb, and Patrick Brazeau were also excluded.

    However, Bayne points out no other senator was made to suffer through a year-long criminal trial about their spending.

    “His expenses have been judicially reviewed, in great detail, a year’s worth of evidence,” says Bayne. “The Auditor General didn’t do that with every senator.”

    Brazeau’s salary is being garnisheed to recoup the money, while both Wallin and Harb paid back expenses flagged by a separate Deloitte audit.

    Brazeau is the only senator still facing charges related to his living expenses.

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