Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Senate Moves to Keep Internal Report on Residency from Duffy Trial

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Senate Moves to Keep Internal Report on Residency from Duffy Trial

Article excerpt

Senate tries to keep residency report secret

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OTTAWA - The Senate is attempting to block the release of a politically sensitive audit it quietly conducted into the residency status of all senators, the Mike Duffy trial heard Monday.

The audit was commissioned some time in late 2012 or early 2013, when the Senate expense scandal first began to unfold.

Duffy's lawyer Donald Bayne and Crown prosecutor Mark Holmes briefly discussed the fact that a lawyer for the Senate is claiming parliamentary privilege to keep the audit from becoming public.

Bayne will have to decide whether it's worth the effort to fight for the document, possibly in a separate legal proceeding in Ontario Superior Court.

Neither Bayne nor the Crown have seen the audit, but it was referred to during a 2013 police interview with Gary O'Brien, who was then clerk of the Senate.

"Before Christmas 2012, the internal economy committee requested that senators provide four specific documents to support their residency locations," reads the report of the interview.

"Using those indicators, an internal audit would be done by (administrator) Jill Anne Joseph, on all senators."

In February 2013, the committee put out a brief report saying that only two additional senators initially raised flags during the audit -- Liberal Sen. Rod Zimmer and Conservative Sen. Dennis Patterson.

"Both explained to the complete satisfaction of the interviewers that their travel claims were in order," the report said.

Duffy, along with Senators Patrick Brazeau, Mac Harb and Pamela Wallin had already had their expense claims referred to outside auditors at that point.

Senate spokesperson Nancy Durning said Monday she could not discuss a matter that is before the courts.

In this fourth week of Duffy's trial on fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges, the focus has looped back to Duffy's declaration of his Ottawa-area home as his secondary residence, enabling him to collect $90,000 in living expenses over four years.

Bayne repeatedly made reference to Conservative Sen. Carolyn Stewart Olsen. After her appointment in 2009, she, too, filed expense claims for an Ottawa home she already lived in.

Duffy found himself charged with fraud and breach of trust, while Stewart Olsen's expenses never seemed to raise an eyebrow inside the Senate. …

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