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Cowan faces charge for failure to appear; next trial dates set

After numerous delays, adjournments and an arrest warrant last month for failing to appear in court, former Woolwich mayor Todd Cowan’s trial date for charges of fraud and breach of trust has finally been set.

A judge Tuesday morning scheduled the trial to begin November 23 at 10 a.m. in courtroom 404 at the Waterloo Region Courthouse in Kitchener. The trial is expected to last four days.

Cowan, 50, came under scrutiny last year after a review found he submitted expense claims resulting in a double reimbursement of more than $2,700. Expenses related to conferences, mileage and meals charged on the mayor’s township credit card were also filed with the Region of Waterloo. As mayor, Cowan served as Woolwich’s representative on regional council.

A review began in July 2014 when a citizen got Cowan’s expense records from the region at the end of June, submitted a request under freedom of information legislation for the mayor’s township expenses and then supplied the township with the region’s records. An internal review by both municipalities was followed by an external investigation led by municipal law expert John Mascarin of the firm of Aird & Berlis LLP.

Cowan paid back a total of $2,770.68 in August, calling the issue a mistake based on his own poor accounting.

The review found six incidents of double reimbursement between January 2012 and February 2014, the two largest amounting to more than $1,000 for an Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa in August 2013 and a Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference in Toronto last February.

The investigation grew a little wider in September with the referral to police of mileage claims related to the Cowan’s attendance of Grand River Conservation Authority meetings.

The GRCA expenses having been sent to the township, a staff review found $465 in mileage claims that may have been double-billed, as was the case with some $2,700 in expenses paid by Woolwich but also reimbursed to Cowan by the Region of Waterloo. The review looked at mileage claims submitted to the township that coincided with GRCA meetings.

Now, Cowan faces another charge, failing to appear, after he broke off contact with his lawyer last month and didn’t show to a scheduled appearance in court on July 21.

An arrest warrant was issued by the judge at that time, and Cowan subsequently turned himself in on July 24. He was released later that day after meeting bail terms of $1,000 and promising to attend his next court date.

Cowan was not present at Tuesday morning’s hearing, though his lawyer, Thomas Brock, told the judge the former mayor had instructed him to request a trial before a judge.

Cowan will appear in court October 26 at 9:30 a.m. in courtroom 105 of the Waterloo Region Courthouse to answer for the failing to appear charge.

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