Brampton mayor Susan Fennell on phone bills, nice cars and “smear campaigns”

Brampton mayor Susan Fennell on phone bills, nice cars and “smear campaigns”

Susan Fennell’s poll numbers have plummeted over allegations of reckless spending. The Brampton mayor, running for her fifth term, is crying foul

Brampton mayor Susan Fennell on phone bills, plane tickets, and "smear campaigns"In Toronto, you’re known as Brampton’s spend-happy, ultra-entitled mayor. Care to challenge that characterization?
Yes, I would. I’m the victim of a smear campaign by a collection of councillors and by the Toronto Star, which has a clear vendetta against me.

According to a Deloitte audit of your expenses, you have an on-call limo service that costs taxpayers $45,000 a year. Isn’t that a tad lavish for a public servant?
Well, it’s a sedan, not a limousine—it’s just rented through a limo agency. It’s an important service that allows me to get where I need to be safely and, if necessary, to continue working in the back seat while we drive.

Why do you also lease a Lincoln ­Navigator, which costs taxpayers an additional $1,400 a month?
Because I drive myself to many events. I need both options, depending on the circumstances.

Over seven years, your office has spent $134,847 on non-economy flights, sometimes for passes that are upgradable to business class, in violation of the city’s travel policy, which permits only economy fares.
Those passes allow me to change or cancel tickets with no fee or penalty.

They were on average twice as expensive as a normal economy fare bought on an as-needed basis.
I buy passes so I can have better control of my day and time, should I need to stay later or what have you. It’s akin to taking the 407 instead of the 401.

And you think the taxpayer should be on the hook for your flexibility?
Flexibility is essential if you want to do this job effectively.

Your credit card statements show you have a habit of buying personal items on your City of Brampton card and then reimbursing that card, which is against policy.
If, as mayor, I’m with a group related to mayoral business, I’ll pick up the dinner or lunch tab, maybe once or twice over seven years.

If it’s a legitimate business expense, then why repay it?
So as not to charge the taxpayer.

I see. Not to keep piling on, but what about the monthly phone bills from your office, which are as high as $1,156 per month? Should we talk about your long-distance plan?
I return calls and texts from wherever I am, and that’s what that phone bill shows. If I’m working in Vancouver or India and people are trying to reach me, I’ll respond.

Doesn’t $1,156 seem a bit rich?
I don’t arrange the plan, but I’m told we have the best one possible for my needs. Plus, none of my expenses—car, flights or phone—has ever put me over my office budget, not once in seven years.

Surely you’d agree that spending within your budget and spending wisely within your budget are two different things.
I have spent properly, and within my budget.

Not according to Deloitte and the integrity commissioner and councillors and a large swath of your electorate. In fact, you’ve got a list of enemies that seems to grow by the day. What’s it like to have so many detractors?
I think the 1,000 supporters who came out to my rally last night would disagree with your assertion. But the bad press takes a toll on my ­family—my husband, John, and our two sons.

How do you blow off steam?
I keep myself very busy. Sometimes, provided John’s not asleep, I like to come home and bang away on my drum set—a Yamaha Stage Custom kit that he bought me a few years ago. Whenever Burton Cummings’ backup band, the Carpet Frogs, comes to town, I get to sit in for “Proud Mary” with them. I’m an honorary Frogette.

You’ve been mayor since 2000. You’re currently trailing in the polls. What will you do if you lose your bid for a fifth term?
I believe I’ll win, because I believe that truth trumps evil, and what is being done to my name and my reputation is pure evil.

So you haven’t made any mistakes? The flight passes, the phone plan, the limo—
No. And it’s a sedan.