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Councillor Grimes says taxpayer-funded Vegas trip was not for casino meetings

Toronto city councillor Mark Grimes takes photos of the demolition of the Casa Mendoza Inn on January 26, 2012.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Councillor Mark Grimes says the taxpayer-funded trip he took to Las Vegas last July was not for the purpose of meeting with casino operators MGM and Caesars, despite what his travel records might suggest.

The five-day trip is mentioned in a report on council expenses that will go to Mayor Rob Ford's executive committee next week.

The report says Mr. Grimes travelled to Las Vegas to meet delegations from MGM and Caesars, both of which have expressed interest in building a casino in downtown Toronto.

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But Councillor Grimes, who is chair of the Exhibition Place board, said in an interview that he did not travel to Las Vegas to meet with the casino operators. He said he was there to see the Fremont Street Experience and assess whether the pedestrian mall would be a good fit for Toronto.

Councillor Grimes said that should have been listed as the purpose of the trip and said the error was made by his corporate secretary.

He did add, however, that a Caesars representative arranged his introduction with city of Las Vegas officials. He said he also received a 90-minute tour of the Bellagio casino resort, which is owned by MGM.

"I don't see what the problem is with it," he said in an interview. "I'm doing my job. My record stands on itself on travel. I very rarely charge the taxpayer anything."

The report going before Mayor Ford's executive does show Councillor Grimes expensed less than his fellow councillors in several areas.

For instance, more than 30 councillors spent more than Councillor Grimes last year when it came to office expenses, and expenses from the council general expense budget. He also spent less on support staff than about 30 councillors.

Councillor Grimes did have the second highest total of expenses paid by agencies, corporations, and other bodies with $1,328.

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