Mike Duffy had family pictures framed at Senate expense, trial told

Sen. Mike Duffy apparently billed the taxpayer to print and mount photos of his family, Barbara Bush and Bill Clinton as part of a contracting agreement he set up outside the scrutiny of Senate officials, court heard Monday.

OTTAWA — Sen. Mike Duffy apparently billed the taxpayer to print and mount photos of his family, Barbara Bush and Bill Clinton as part of a contracting agreement he set up outside the scrutiny of Senate officials, court heard Monday.

Crown prosecutors began the second week of the Duffy trial laying out their case on a particular set of charges against the suspended senator involving contracts awarded to his friend Gerald Donohue for research and consulting work.

Duffy faces 31 charges in total, of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. Donohue allegedly received $65,000 in contracts, with some of that money in turn filtering out to other service providers.

The photographs are a case in point.

Documents filed in court show that Donohue’s two companies, Maple Ridge Media and ICF Ottawa, sent $1,578 to a photo developing company for work Duffy appeared to request.

“5 x 7 enlargement — (Miranda/Colin) (3 in original order + 5.25, 4 more 5 x 7 ordered Jun 13/11 by phone,” reads one line item. Miranda is Duffy’s daughter, and Colin is his grandson.

“8 x 10 Medite Mounted — Barbara Bush + 1 11 x 14 Medite Mount — same,” reads another item, a reference to the wife of former U.S. president George Bush.

Duffy’s daily diaries, filed in court last week, also include a reference to sending photos to Barbara Bush.

Several newspaper articles were also mounted. In a few instances, there appeared to be items that were specifically ordered for Duffy’s wife Heather.

Crown prosecutor Jason Neubauer took Senate human resource officer Sonia Makhlouf through some of the procedures she would have gone through as she evaluated contracts submitted by senators.

He asked her whether she would have approved of a request for a “photographic services” contract.

“I will not proceed with it and probably I will bring it to a higher level,” Makhlouf said.

It is not clear what Duffy was doing with the photographs. Senators and MPs often decorate their offices with photographs of themselves and other politicians, as well as favourable newspaper articles.

The Crown also suggested Duffy carefully juggled and squeezed his upper chamber office budget in order to pay the maximum amount possible to a friend doing contract work.

In 2009-2010, Duffy repeatedly adjusted the amount that he would pay to Donohue for “consulting and editorial services” after hearing how much was left in the budget. Ultimately, Donohue was paid an extra $14,000 at the very end of the fiscal year.

“I have been waiting for them to assist me with a project on the aging Canadian population, but had held off giving them the assignment because under the impression that I was out of funds for the fiscal year,” Duffy wrote to the Senate human resources department.

“As it turns out, we have a small surplus that can be used.”

The same thing happened the following year, in 2010-11. Duffy at first asked for Donohue to be back-paid for work beginning at the beginning of the fiscal year, but then settled for paying Donohue $13,560 at the end of 2010 after getting an accounting of what was left in his office budget.

Makhlouf also testified that while she reviewed the amount of contracts and their timing, she did not investigate a contractor’s qualifications or check if the work had been completed.

“I don’t validate this information,” she said. “It’s at the discretion of the senator.”

That matches testimony given last week by former Senate law clerk Mark Audcent, who bolstered the defence case that the Senate’s rules on everything from residency to what constitutes official business are vague.

“In layman’s terms, you hire who you want to do the work you want done,” defence lawyer Donald Bayne asked him Friday. “Yes,” Audcent replied.

Bayne said during his opening statement last week that if the senator is guilty of anything, it is administrative errors, and not criminal behaviour.

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