Pamela Wallin used public funds to pursue 'private and business interests,' RCMP allege
Sonja Puzic, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, March 9, 2015 3:01PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 9, 2015 10:56PM EDT
Suspended Senator Pamela Wallin is fighting back against allegations from the RCMP that she fraudulently claimed nearly $27,500 in travel expenses, using public funds to “pursue private and business interests.”
Newly-released court documents filed by the RCMP to obtain information about Wallin’s travels and whereabouts on certain dates show that the Mounties were investigating 150 travel expense claims submitted by the former Conservative senator.
Investigators allege in 25 of those cases, which Wallin qualified as “Senate businesses,” she was in fact attending meetings or dinners related to her position as a member of the board of directors for Porter Airlines and Gluskin Sheff & Associates Inc., and was not on Senate business.
“Senator Wallin used public funds to travel to Toronto in order to pursue these private and business interests,” one of the documents alleges.
That document questions a trip Wallin took to Toronto from Sept. 15 to Sept. 17, 2009, which her office stated in a spreadsheet given to Deloitte auditors was for a reception for Dignitas International, an HIV-AIDS charity.
Dignitas’ records suggest she was not on the guest list.
Meanwhile, an examination of copies of her Microsoft Outlook calendar showed an entry for “UNIVERISTY OF GUELPH – Chancellor’s dinner,” scheduled for Sept. 15, 2009, and a Gluskin board of director’s meeting scheduled at 8 a.m. on Sept. 17, 2009.
That same weekend there were entries such as "Elvis show," "Heather's birth day," and "welcome backBBQ" that the RCMP allege in the documents were “Senator Wallin’s personal affairs.”
The documents also show apparent discrepancies with Wallin’s calender items.
One meeting that the spreadsheet said was with Peter Munk of Barrick Gold for a briefing on the state of his industry and to discuss Canada-U.S. relations could not have happened, according to Munk. He was in Switzerland. He says it is possible they spoke on the phone.
The handwritten entry in her calendar for March 12, 2010 simply reads “8am Peter Munk.”
Meanwhile, records from Wallin’s Microsoft Outlook calendar for that day referred to an “Eco Cardiogram 3rd floor, Peter Monk.” Toronto General hospital contains the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre.
The RCMP also alleges someone in Wallin’s office altered her electronic calendar after the RCMP investigation began.
The RCMP allege that Wallin “fraudulently sought reimbursement” from the Senate for expenses totalling $27,493 between September 2009 and September 2012.
None of the allegations has been proven in court, and no charges have been laid.
Terrence O’Sullivan, Wallin’s lawyer, tells CTV News in a statement that trips to and from Ottawa for board meetings in Toronto “were intended to be fully paid for by those companies” and that “through an administrative error, some of those flights were inadvertently charged to the Senate.”
“When that error was discovered, that money was repaid to the Senate and that happened a very long time ago – more than 18 months ago,” O’Sullivan goes on to say.
“There was no possibility of personal gain for her since those companies’ policy was to fully reimburse her for her expenses,” O’Sullivan adds. “As a result of an error some of the expenses were charged to the Senate and when that was discovered that error was corrected.”
Brad Cicero, a Porter Airlines spokesperson, tells CTV News that board members are reimbursed for “approved expenses submitted (that are) associated with Porter business.”
“Porter has supplied any and all information to RCMP requested as part of its investigation,” Cicero adds.
Wallin has denied any wrongdoing, telling a radio station last year that she regrets paying back some $150,000 to the Senate despite her belief that most of her travel expenses were legitimate.
Wallin, along with fellow former Tories Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy, was suspended from the Senate in November 2013 over inappropriate expense claims.
Liberal Mac Harb resigned from the Senate in August 2013 after repaying ineligible housing and travel expenses.
Duffy faces 31 charges, including multiple counts of fraud and breach of trust. His trial will begin on April 7. Brazeau and Harb have also been charged with defrauding the Senate by making false or misleading expense claims.
In response to questions about changes to her calendar, Wallin previously said she was only asked to provide information relevant to the expenses being audited, so she and her staff reformatted her calendar “without irrelevant or private or personal information included.”
The documents released Monday include a 2013 letter from Wallin’s lawyer to the auditing firm Deloitte, explaining the reasons behind those calendar changes.