Along with the conference costs he double-billed the region and township for, Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan’s credit card statements paint a picture of someone with a penchant for dining out.
In 2013, restaurant charges amounted to almost $2,000. The February statement from that year, for instance, saw half a dozen visits totalling $522.84, including $225.50 at the upscale Canoe restaurant in Toronto and $99.84 at the Church Key Bistro in London, Ont. Other charges included Wildcraft ($54.13) and Solé Restaurant and Wine Bar ($57.29), two frequent stops in Waterloo.
The information was gleaned from copies of Cowan’s corporate credit card statements from August 2012 to August 2014, released last week to the Observer following a freedom of information (FOI) request in September.
Cowan’s card, the first ever issued to a township politician, was revoked following revelations he billed both Woolwich and the Region of Waterloo for expenses totalling more than $2,700, which Cowan paid back when the double-billing was discovered.
The review of Cowan’s expenses showed he used his corporate credit card for personal expenses, though he did reimburse the township in each instance.
The councils of both municipalities referred the matter to Waterloo Regional Police. The matter was later widened when a review of Cowan’s expense claims to the Grand River Conservation Authority found $465 in mileage claims that may have been double-billed. The investigation was subsequently turned over to the Ontario Provincial Police.
Earlier this month, Woolwich council approved new policies governing council expenses and use of corporate credit cards.
Among the items charged on the card were conference-related expenses such as hotels that made up the bulk of the double-billing. The statement through the end of August 2013, for instance, shows $1,453.78 for a stay at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. Five restaurant charges from August 17 to 21 in that city total $353.55.
None of the items on the statements provided – from golf to online bookstores – is for the kind of personal expenses criticized in the review of Cowan’s spending. Township director of finance Richard Petherick noted the items were those identified as being township or regional expenses. That applies to the restaurant charges, he added.
“Our expense policy governs food/restaurant charges. In these circumstances, the expense policy has provisions which permits council to incur such charges while conducting township business and this is to be done within the approved budget. As you may be aware with the new council expense policy council expense controls have been improved and strengthened as it pertains to these items,” he said in an email.
As well as stays in Toronto and Ottawa, the statements show charges for restaurants and hotels in London and Niagara Falls.
Copies of the statements provided by the township can be viewed below.
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