Independent probe of OPP union finds allegations of misspending
Published Tuesday, September 8, 2015 6:19PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 8, 2015 6:38PM EDT
An independent investigation into the practices of the Ontario Provincial Police Association has found allegations of misspending and a “toxic” work environment, according to two reports released Tuesday.
After three OPPA leaders were suspended in March pending an RCMP investigation, the union hired law firms to look into allegations that include theft, fraud and criminal breach of trust.
Nearly a year ago, an OPPA employee flagged some unusual spending practices by the union to police. In March, the RCMP raided the OPPA headquarters.
In police documents used to obtain search warrants, RCMP investigators alleged that OPPA president and CEO Jim Christie, vice-president Martin Bain and chief administrative officer Karl Walsh used companies they either set up or partly owned, to obtain exclusive rights to services used by the association, including travel and investment services.
After the March raid, the OPP commissioner suspended the three police officers indefinitely with pay pending the outcome of the RCMP investigation.
None of the allegations has been tested in court and no charges have been laid.
The results of the independent investigation into the matter said that the OPPA’s organizational backdrop is a “perfect storm of corporate governance” and that the OPPA lacks an appropriate expense policy, as well as a clear policy on vacation and lieu time payouts.
The investigative report noted several expense claims, including LCBO and restaurant charges for over $1,000, as well as travel costs for spouses and a charge on Jim Christie’s OPPA credit card for more than $450 at a bar in Australia.
The governance report, meanwhile, noted that “directors and members of the Audit Committee seemed to have been unwilling to challenge or demand accountability from the then President or CAO."
The report found that the OPPA president has too much authority and autonomy and that the union’s audit committee is set up to fail.
The reports described a “toxic” work environment where people felt bullied, intimidated and unable to question authority.
Before releasing the reports publicly, the OPPA sent an email to its members Tuesday morning, noting in part that “now is the time to turn the page on this dark chapter in OPPA’s history.”
Recommendations from independent investigators include governance training, a review of OPPA bylaws and policies, the elimination of the existing audit committee, the adoption of a comprehensive code of conduct and the creation of an anonymous and confidential whistleblower policy.