Brampton Mayor Deb Matthews says she acted with integrity in conflict-of-interest report, has repaid $10,000

Brampton Mayor Deb Matthews released a statement saying that she has “always acted with integrity and for the good of the community.”

In another statement, Matthews said that the report “clearly provides that I am not in breach of the Code of Conduct of the Mayor.”

A report from an external audit found Matthews broke conflict-of-interest laws and ordered that Matthews repay $10,000, with interest, to her former deputy mayor after Matthews rejected the recommendation of the council to reimburse him.

“I am particularly gratified to know that many of the accusations against me in the report have been cleared by the board of the Office of the Ombudsman,” Matthews said in her statement.

The report also recommended that the Mayor pay the city $32,000 to cover related costs. Matthews repaid that amount.

The council voted to withdraw the petition to appeal the findings to the Municipal Appeals Tribunal and thus allow the Mayor to proceed with her re-election campaign.

At a news conference following a special council meeting on Wednesday, commissioner of the Ombudsman Eric Abels said the audit has “clearly vindicated” Matthews. He defended his decision to release the report early, after it was commissioned by Matthews’ administration.

“There was a lot of pressure on the City to do it quickly … that it would cause a conflict of interest,” Abels said.

Abels recommended that Matthews repay part of the $36,500 council authorized for project and advocacy costs from the Office of the Mayor.

“If that sum of money was necessary to administer the city and Mr. Abbott’s position, which is to cover governance costs, which is charged to his department, that’s way more important than $30,000 to $40,000 which is not,” Abels said.

“There are efficiencies within city government that, unlike consulting costs, can be cut,” Abels said.

Abels also said the $32,000 that Matthews repaid will cover the cost of the audit, as the office had estimated in the fact-finding stage that it would cost approximately $50,000 to complete. That estimate was never released at the time because the office was unsure of the total costs, he said.

“The larger costs — that amount will have to come from somewhere — and right now it looks like a B-rated film,” Abels said.

Other commissioners recommended that Matthews pay $1,000 in expenses to the Office of the Ombudsman. Matthews was unwilling to do so because she would have to repay all campaign money that was spent in Brampton during the failed election bid.

“It was a lot of unnecessary costs,” Abels said.

Matthews went back and forth with city officials over her refusal to reimburse Deputy Mayor Barb Murphy, who voted against a motion to reimburse him. Matthews said she did not want to be seen “assisting a former deputy mayor.” Murphy declined to comment on the report.

The Mayor, who is a master at the money-counting franchise Hardee’s, lost in the May, 2014, election to Anthony Santino. She said she would be moving to Toronto next year to run for mayor there. Matthews has not said whether she plans to run for mayor in Brampton again.

“I hope to see my colleagues get together to plan our election campaign,” Matthews said.

In her statement, Matthews said she “looks forward to meeting next week with members of the political landscape to discuss a way forward, a way we can continue working with the City’s best interests at heart.”

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