Lawyer withholding fiscal files required for audit, OPSEU alleges

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, former president of the Ontario Community Support Personnel Union (OPSEU), speaks to reporters at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Jan. 21, 2019.Chris Youthful/The Canadian Push

The Ontario Public Service Staff Union has sought a court order to compel a Toronto lawyer to switch more than paperwork appropriate to a forensic audit of the union’s finances.

The continuing audit has so significantly resulted in accusations of fiscal misappropriation versus OPSEU’s previous president, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, former vice-president and treasurer Eddy Almeida and a different former executive, Maurice Gabay. A lawsuit submitted by OPSEU final month alleged that the a few guys “unlawfully” took pretty much $6-million in union cash.

Mr. Thomas has named the allegations “bogus.” Mr. Almeida and Mr. Gabay have not responded to the allegations.

The court order is the newest lawful move OPSEU’s new leadership has taken as it probes the state of union’s funds and how union cash have been made use of in the course of Mr. Thomas’s 15-yr tenure.

OPSEU alleges that law firm Mark Mendl, who made use of to provide authorized solutions to the union, refused numerous requests over the previous year to offer the union with specific documents, which include the union’s possess consumer file.

The union statements that it will be not able to get a full image of its individual finances and full a third-party forensic audit thoroughly without the documents that Mr. Mendl allegedly possesses.

On Feb. 8, OPSEU filed an application in an Ontario courtroom buying Mr. Mendl and his firm, Mark Mendl Expert Law Corp., to produce OPSEU’s very own consumer file to the union which has, amongst other paperwork, payments Mr. Mendl may have gained from the union.

When achieved by The World and Mail by cellular phone on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Mendl explained he had no comment on the continuing legal issue.

Mr. Mendl was employed on retainer by the union in 2017, when Mr. Thomas was union president, and dealt largely with administration-side labour and employment matters, the courtroom application said.

In April, 2022, soon after Mr. Thomas retired, JP Hornick and Laurie Nancekivell ended up elected to lead the union as president and as vice-president and treasurer, respectively, and they requested a 3rd-party forensic audit into the union’s funds. Between the worries the new management had, in accordance to the court documents, had been the lawful companies supplied by Mr. Mendl, such as the motion of union resources through Mr. Mendl’s rely on account.

From December, 2021, to April, 2022, approximately $3.2-million of union funds were being transferred to a have faith in account registered to Mr. Mendl’s law corporation, the court files mentioned. The cash was not relevant to the retainer payments that Mr. Mendl obtained for his providers and could not be clearly spelled out or supported by documentation, OPSEU alleged.

Between May, 2022, and June, 2022, the union, via its general counsel, Eric O’Brien, frequently requested that Mr. Mendl supply the union with a checklist of documents of issues in which he acted for the union, as very well as a in depth description of the solutions he delivered and the payments he gained for them. OPSEU did not obtain the details, the paperwork mentioned.

Mr. Mendl’s expert services were being subsequently terminated by Ms. Hornick and Ms. Nancekivell in July, 2022, and the legal data files he was dealing with were being transferred to a new law agency the union had employed to oversee the forensic audit, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP. All over again, involving December, 2022, and February, 2023, OPSEU, by way of its attorneys, continuously questioned Mr. Mendl to provide particular financial documents and files similar to the believe in payments.

Mr. Mendl reassured OPSEU by means of e-mail that the files experienced been despatched by normal mail, but the union promises that as of Feb. 8, they had however not acquired them. An Ontario decide has supplied Mr. Mendl right up until March 10 to respond to the court docket order versus him or hand over the paperwork.

Considering the fact that Ms. Hornick and Ms. Nancekivell took demand of OPSEU very last spring, they have instituted a collection of steps aimed at maximizing monetary obligation and modifying the culture of the union towards a single they say emphasizes collaboration and accountability. An e-mail from leadership despatched to OPSEU’s 300-odd team late past thirty day period said that the union has begun tightening and increasing money controls linked to price range approvals.

OPSEU is in search of $6-million in damages from Mr. Thomas, Mr. Almeida and Mr. Gabay for the alleged economic misappropriation of union funds. The union has also accused Mr. Thomas of transferring a number of union-owned vehicles to himself and family customers, as nicely as improperly utilizing revenue from the union’s strike fund.

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