Read – https://www.thespec.com/news-story/6454248-hamilton-firefighter-named-in-4-million-lawsuit-filed-by-union/
Summary of the OPFFA vs. Atkinson-Grieve Criminal Pre-trial
Monday September 10th, Witness #1:
An elderly lady testified that she paid both the OPFFA and Atkinson and Grieve. The witness was very happy and grateful for what Atkinson and Grieve had done for her. The witness stated that they had tried unsuccessfully on their own to receive benefits. With the help of Atkinson and Grieve she was able to get $130,000. Her husband had died of a very aggressive form of brain cancer, Glioblastoma.
The Witness only became involved with the criminal case because she was contacted by the OPFFA and they told her a crime had been committed. The Witness was mainly upset because a relative of hers, who was also married to a firefighter and who had also died of cancer, had paid less of a fee to Atkinson and Grieve then she had to pay. The witness stated her husband only had one cancer meanwhile the other lady’s husband had four cancers and therefore she wondered why hers cost more. (She was unaware that the other lady’s husband was a union paying dues member and did not have to pay a fee, her husband had already retired and was not paying dues therefore she was asked to make a donation).
Monday September 10th, Witness #2:
This witness is the son of a widow. Therefore much of this testimony is hearsay evidence and will be struck from the record. His mother had already passed away and had received an award over $600,000. He stated he was not present when the mother had signed her intent to compensate Atkinson and Grieve. The witness stated that Grieve was an honest and trustworthy guy and did a great job for a 35 year old WSIB claim. His mother used her own lawyer to deal with her benefits.
Tuesday September 11th :
Two lawyers were present in court whom were representing the OPFFA civil lawyers. Hoping to quash the subpoenas that were issued for OPFFA civil lawyer Rahool Agrwal and Andrew McCoomb, as being the creators of the evidence used to arrest Atkinson and Grieves.
The OPFFA and their lawyers solicited and created the statements the OPFFA gave to the Halton Police. This was after the OPP Anti Rackets Branch cleared both Atkinson and Grieve, and the lawyer and paralegal who handled the Trust affairs, of any wrong doing.
There were 78 emails over span of 11 months between the OPFFA lawyers and the police, prior to charges being laid, indicating alliance and the building of a case. The police did not have any witness statements when they filed the charges, and the police did not interview any of the witnesses.
Tuesday September 11th , Witness #3 Bev Bamlett:
Atkinson and Grieve took this claim to the Tribunal for her husband who had been a firefighter for 8 years and 9 months in the City of Vaughan. Atkinson and Grieve had stepped down from the OPFFA in May 2015, at which time the final submissions were to be finished. After Atkinson and Grieve resigned Atkinson continued working on Mrs. Bamlett’s claim. After submissions, her claim was approved. It took several months for the benefits to be paid during which Mrs. Bamlett called Atkinson several times inquiring when the money would arrive. Mrs. Bamlett states that when she inquired about the money during her last call to Atkinson, in September of that year, Atkinson replied she would have a nice Christmas (he made no mention of winning a lottery).
Mrs. Bamlett received $1.2 million, plus all her children’s education and her own education were paid, and she also receives a monthly pension of $4,000 all of these benefits tax-free due to the work of Atkinson and Grieve.
Mrs. Bamlett was contacted by Carmen Santoro and asked to file a complaint, she did not call the OPFFA to lodge a complaint.
A Vaughan firefighter had started her claim originally, he then retired and handed it over to another Vaughan firefighter. This firefighter realized he was not capable of doing the work and recommended Atkinson and Grieve. Atkinson called her and introduced himself. It was at this point that Carmen Santoro contacted her and told her disinformation about Atkinson and Grieve.
At the completion of the WSIB Tribunal Atkinson called her and asked her what she thought would be a fair compensation to pay him for the work he had done after he had left the OPFFA. Mrs. Bamlett stated that he was paid by the OPFFA, and although he had left the OPFFA she did not compensate Atkinson for his work even though she received $1.2 million and a $4,000 a month pension. Mrs. Bamlett instead donated to the OPFFA $7,500 and to the Vaughan firefighters $7,500, and stated “why would I pay Atkinson when it was Vaughan who did all of the work”. Atkinson and Grieve received nothing from Bamlett for their work. They did not complain or question it.
Wednesday September 12th, Witness #4:
This witness is the son of a widow. Therefore much of this testimony is hearsay evidence and will be struck from the record. Atkinson and Grieve met with his mother 6 years ago, her husband had passed away in the 1990s as an Oshawa firefighter. The mother had tried several times over the years to receive benefits but was always unsuccessful. The claim was reactivated by Atkinson and Grieve and eventually approved. The witness testified that his mother had talked with Grieve on the first occasion via telephone by herself, and then for all subsequent visits he was present. The mother had made the agreement with Atkinson and Grieve for their work, as a result, she received $1.2 million and $4,000 a month. The mother used a lawyer, Mr. Shapiro, for assistance in processing all of the benefits and cheques through his trust account. The witness stated his mother spoke many times with Shapiro’s office and was grateful for everything Atkinson and Grieve had done for her. The witness said his mother was always worried she wasn’t paying Grieve enough, for that reason she was always baking Grieve cookies, she wanted to be sure that Grieve was taken care of. The witness stated that he and his mother both knew the donation was voluntary. The witness stated his mother was overwhelmed by the amount of the award.
The witness stated the OPFFA President talked to him over the phone and he signed a statement regarding the talk. The witness stated he read the newspaper article and assumed something was wrong.
Wednesday September 12th,, Witness #5:
An elderly lady (widow) testified. Her husband was a firefighter in Etobicoke for 29 years, retired in 1994 and died of cancer in 2014. The couple originally met Atkinson in 2013 for help obtaining hearing aids. The witness stated that Atkinson did most of the work, and admitted that the first time she met Atkinson she didn’t pay much attention, and that Atkinson was able to get the hearing aids. After her husband had died Atkinson returned to meet with her, she said she didn’t realize that she had a case. The witness states that Atkinson did a great job. The witness received a payout of $120,000. She said she wrote a cheque out for the donation but did not recollect who the cheque was for. The witness said she thought that Atkinson did a fantastic job and was a great guy.
The witness stated that she received a call from Anne Bryant of the OPFFA , and also said she did not reach out to anybody about this matter, and the only time the police talked to her was when they delivered a subpoena to her home.
Thursday, September 13th, Witness #6 :
The witness is a daughter of a retired firefighter from Etobicoke. Much of this testimony is hearsay evidence and will be struck from the record. The Witness said that Atkinson met with the mother to start her and her husband’s claim. The daughter states that she and her mother never signed any papers or documents with Atkinson (you cannot start at WSIB claim without signing any paperwork or documents to initiate a WSIB claim). The Witness then went on to say that she was grateful for everything that Atkinson has done for her Mother and that she was so happy that her mother received an award of $550,000 plus a monthly pension of $4,000, both tax free. The mother used her own Financial person to handle the WSIB award and process the money. The mother wrote a personal check to PFAI herself for the work that Atkinson had done for her.
Thursday, September 13th, witness #7:
This witness is the daughter of a Ottawa firefighter. Therefore much of this testimony is hearsay evidence and will be struck from the record. Her father died of a heart attack in 1997. After his death the Witness stated she went to the Ottawa fire department on behalf of her mother seeking compensation but FD said there was no case. The Witness also stated that for two years her father’s Local did nothing for her even though she was trying to initiate a claim. She stated that if Atkinson and Grieve did not get involved that Peter Barton, the Ottawa WSIB rep, would have done nothing and let the case go.
The Witness admitted that due to the work of Atkinson and Grieve in 2007 heart attacks (within 24 hours of working) we’re covered. The Witness said she met with Colin and Paul in October of 2009 but cannot recall much from that initial meeting, the Witness could not recall what documents were signed that day. The Witness said that Atkinson and Grieve were always quick to reply to her queries, and also said that they were working very hard all over Ontario and it was costly. She said that Atkinson took the claim to appeal and he was successful, entitling her mother to spousal benefits and retroactive benefits totalling approximately $600,000.00 and $3,900 a month tax free for the rest of her life.
The Witness said that she can’t remember when a donation was first asked for, at some point Atkinson suggested 5% but it was made very clear it was not mandatory. Atkinson then said there was less work to be done than normal and asked for 3%, however her mother insisted on giving 5%. The Witness admits she was not there when her mother wrote the check or for any discussions regarding it. The Witness said her mother sent Atkinson and Grieve a Thank you card and gift card. The Witness said it was Atkinson and Grieve’s work that got the claim approved and without them she knows it would not have happened.
The Witness stated her Local called her to tell her about the trial. The Witness then received a conference call from the OPFFA, during which the OPFFA Lawyers advised her that the conference call with them and the OPFFA was being recorded. The Witness stated she never personally made a witness statement, but one drafted by the OPFFA was given to her to sign and she revised it 3 times. And the Witness also stated that the day before coming to trial she spoke to Anne Bryant of the OPFFA on a conference call. The Witness never met any Police officer, but did receive a call from one to see if her witness statement was true.
Thursday September 13th, Witness #8:
This witness is the daughter of a Toronto Firefighter. Therefore much of this testimony is hearsay evidence and will be struck from the record. Her father died in 1981 of esophageal cancer, he was retired at the time. In 2007 the Witness wanted her father to be recognized on the Firefighter Memorial, so she contacted the OPFFA. Paul Atkinson visited her shortly after in 2007. The witness could not recall if her mother was there for all phone calls. At the time her mother was 88 years old. The witness stated it was obvious to her that Paul should get extra compensation for all of his work. Atkinson asked for 6% and the mother had no objection. The mother was awarded $494,000. Her mother passed away in 2017 at the age of 96.
The Witness said she received the call from the OPFFA lawyers and a call from Ann Bryant of the OPFFA. The Witness stated that the only time she talked to the police was on September 5th of 2018 and that was to tell her to come to court. And then a few days before her court appearance the Witness spoke with Ann Bryant of the OPFFA again.
Monday September 17th, Witness #9
The witness was an 89-year-old Widow, her husband was a Belleville firefighter who died of cancer August 26th, 1989, he had retired in 1987. Belleville fire instigated the first WSIB claim in 1994 but the claim was denied. The Witness stated Paul Atkinson called her when her husband’s particular cancer became recognized by WSIB. Atkinson then made an appointment and visited her at her house with her daughter and son present. At the meeting, according to witness, Atkinson told her the claim would be successful and they could expect a large sum of money and asked her if she would donate or 5%. The Witness stated that she could not recall if she asked Atkinson any questions on that day and stated her children did not ask any questions. Atkinson was successful with her claim, her award was $790,000.
The Witness states that the OPFFA visited her home but does not remember the content of that conversation, or when the meeting took place. The Witness said she did not meet with any police officers.
Monday September 17th, Witness #10
The witness is the son of a 92-year-old widow from Moncton, New Brunswick. Therefore much of this testimony is hearsay evidence and will be struck from the record. His mother was married to a London Ontario firefighter who died of cancer in 1992. She did not attend this pre-trial. Colin Grieve contacted the Widow via phone and initiated the claim in 2010. The son stated neither him, his mother, nor his sisters had any knowledge that they had a claim, let alone a possible winning claim. At the time of initiating this claim, the mother lived in Moncton New Brunswick. Colin Grieve flew to Moncton to meet with her. Colin Grieve was successful with the claim and the mother was awarded $660,000.00.
The son stated in 2016 his sister contacted him and told him about the OPFFA lawsuit. The son stated that he knew his mother had originally made the paperwork with Colin Grieve and that he was not present at that meeting, and the son also acknowledged that he was not present for telephone conversations. The son stated he met Colin in 2011.
The son testified that in 2017 he and his sister were on a conference call with Ann Bryant and said he thought she was a lawyer. He also stated that he thought Phil King ( London, Ontario FD) was on the conference call. The son also stated that he thought his witness statement was prepared by Ann Bryant. The son testified that his mother never once complained to the police.
Tuesday September 17th, Witness #11 Ann Bryan
Ann Bryant is a Kingston, Ontario firefighter and The District 2 vice president of the OPFFA since 2015. Ann Bryant testified that she was directed by Carmen Santoro to interview families to see what happened with their WSIB files. Ann Bryant stated she was not involved at the start of the OPFFA involvement with the cases and only became involved once the civil case started.
Ann Bryant testified that she conducted 38 witness interviews with a lawyer from Norton Rose via conference call, but only found 9 witnesses worthy of making statements (although most of these witnesses were not the beneficiary of the claim, most were sons, daughters, and stepsons, providing hearsay, second-hand, information gained from a phone call 7 months after the civil case law suit was filed, and also after the OPP had stopped their investigation, and many years after the original claims were initiated). Ann Bryant stated that many of the people they contacted did not respond back. Ann Bryant stated that the witness statements were created by OPFFA Lawyers Rahool Agrwal and Andrew McCoomb, and that many of the statements were not signed by the witnesses.
Ann Bryant testified that she only gave her notes to Detective Constable Taylor Meyers (Officer who filed the criminal charges) and the lawyers last week. Ann Bryant testified that September 12, 2018, was the first time Detective Constable Taylor Meyer had asked for her notes. Ann Bryant testified that an OPFFA researcher by the name of Adam McDonald provided her with a list of who to contact. Ann Bryant stated that she was on a conference call with a certain witness back in 2014 (this predates when she said she started her involvement with the civil case). Ann Bryant states that not one complaint was made.
Ann Bryant received all this information on these WSIB claims from the OPFFA database without direct consent from the estates.
Tuesday September 17th, Witness #12 Kelly King
Kelly King is the bookkeeper for the OPFFA. She stated that the previous bookkeeper left the job after only 3 months. King produced the OPFFA Policy regarding WSIB claims and donations which was dated 2016. King did not have any record of previous editions of the Policy. King explained the accounting system which was the software program Quicken. King also explained how cheques were processed and recorded using a notation system on the cheques. This system was quite lacking, to say the least. King stated that the OPFFA had over 300 different accounts within their Quicken Accounting system, but only had one account at the bank where funds would be deposited. There seemed to be no oversight on what cheques truly came into the OPFFA office.
Wednesday September 18th, Witness #13 Detective Constable Taylor Meyers
Detective Constable Taylor Meyers testified that he has been a police officer for 9 years and has worked on the Regional Fraud Unit for 4 years. Meyers stated he has no experience in Forensic accounting. Meyers testified that he was instructed to take this case by his Staff Sergeant Troy Izlaker on June 27th, 2016 (at which point Meyers had two years experience on the Fraud unit). Meyers stated the case was first sent to the Halton Police in November of 2015. Meyers testified he did not interview one person who was a so-called witness in this matter, and he solely relied on the OPFFA statement of claim and concluded he didn’t need to interview any witnesses. Meyers also testified that he did not interview Carmen Santoro, who was the President of the OPFFA when the Statement of Claim was filed. Meyers also stated he possessed 38 interviews conducted by Ann Bryant, Rahooll Agrwal, and Andrew McCoomb, but only used 8 because they were the best (may be possible that he discarded the other 30 interviews because they included exculpatory evidence). Meyers then testified that he used the evidence that he gained from the civil lawyers and Ann Bryant, and not through his own investigation, or the investigation of other officers, to obtain his Production Order Warrant and his Arrest Warrant. Therefore Meyers obtained these warrants by mistating and misleading the Justice of the Peace by saying the evidence was gained by his investigation and the investigation of other officers, which is not true, illegal, and unlawful. Meyers displayed his inability, naivety, and laziness to properly investigate this case. He was not a credible witness!
Wednesday September 18th, Witness #13 Fred Leblanc:
Fred Leblanc stated that during his 10 year tenure as the president of the OPFFA he had no issues with Paul Atkinson or Colin Grieve, nor with the work they did. Leblanc stated he relied on Atkinson and Grieve, specifically to advance the occupational cancers in Ontario and to achieve Presumptive Legislation in 2007. Leblanc stated Atkinson and Grieve were the two experts on occupational cancers. When Leblanc was asked about the meetings between Himself, Paul Atkinson, Colin Grieve, and Brian George, Leblanc testified that he had no recollection of any such meetings.
Leblanc also went on to testify that what Interest Arbitration Advocates received in compensation is different, but could not explain why it was different. He went on to state that Carmen Santoro could accept gifts when working on contract issues for other Locals. When Leblanc was asked about the policy and procedures of the WSIB committee he stated that there were none in place for this Ad hoc committee and that there was no policy stating that Atkinson and Grieve couldn’t establish a business, and any gifts that Atkinson or Grieve received could be kept but that they should pay taxes and thereby open a company. Leblanc stated it was possible but he cannot recollect stating that the OPFFA would work on dues-paying members and not non-paying members.
When Leblanc was asked how he made himself aware of the civil lawsuit and criminal charges LeBlanc stated that he had read the Statement of Claim and he made his assumptions from it, and also from talking to the OPFFA Executive Officers.
Leblanc had a very limited memory of these events or facts, other than what he was told to read.
Monday September 18th, Witness #14 Jeff Braun-Jackson:
Braun-Jackson testified that from 1995 to 2002 he was employed as a University Professor. Starting in May, 2006, Braun-Jackson stated he was employed by the OPFFA as the lead researcher and the office manager. He left the OPFFA in March of 2013. His duties included: helping Locals with their Collective Agreement language; preparing Parliamentary briefs; he oversaw the OPFFA database; and starting in 2006 he worked with the Occupational Disease Committee, personally helping Grieve and Atkinson by researching and creating documents to form the bases of what would become Presumptive Legislation in 2007, and to used at Appeals/Tribunals at the WSIB.
Braun-Jackson stated that in around 2010 and 2011 he, Grieve, and Atkinson were able to have more cancers added to the Presumptive Legislation. Braun-Jackson stated that he was aware that Grieve and Atkinson were doing this work before and after the legislation. Braun-Jackson testified that Grieve and Atkinson started their work on their own to help people get compensation and the OPFFA had endorsed it. When asked if the OPFFA sought funds from the claimants Braun-Jackson said no. Braun-Jackson said claimants did not have to pay but they could make a donation if they wanted. Braun-Jackson stated that he reported to Fred LeBlanc and that LeBlanc instructed him on what policies he must follow for these claims. Braun-Jackson stated he was not aware of any policy, formal, or informal, on clients given Colin Grieve and Atkinson gifts. Braun-Jackson stated that there was no reason why Grieve and Atkinson could not collect gifts from the families, and whatever gifts the claimants gave to Grieve and Atkinson were between the deceased families and Grieve and Atkinson because they were no longer dues-paying members.
Braun-Jackson testified that he was responsible for the database which included the Occupational Disease documents and WSIB claims. Braun-Jackson stated the database was password protected and only he, Grieve, and Atkinson had access to this folder of claims and documents. Braun-Jackson said no other people needed entrance to those files, that the files contained very private information such as personal medical information of deceased firefighters and their spouses, and it needed to be protected. Braun-Jackson stated that Mr LeBlanc was aware of this database and agreed that only he, Grieve, and Atkinson had access to the Occupational Disease and WSIB folder. Braun-Jackson stated that after 2013 only Grieve and Atkinson had access to this database. If at any point the OPFFA used information from within that particular database they did so illegally without direction from the families.
Braun-Jackson stated he thought the work of Grieve and Atkinson was outstanding and very transparent, and also stated that he would receive calls from across Canada from other departments and locals asking for advice from Grieve and Atkinson. Braun-Jackson stated that the OPFFA supported how Grieve and Atkinson conducted their business, and also that there was no official policy, that there was nothing in the OPFFA Constitution prohibiting families from giving gifts to either Grieve and Atkinson. Braun-Jackson stated the Occupational Disease Committee was supported by the membership (per capita).
Brian George –currently Fire Chief and Director of Fire Services for Strathroy – Caradoc Fire Department and previously a member of the Executive Committee Board for Ontario Professional Fire Fighter Association. Retired from London Fire Department in 2014.
At various times from 1987 to 2008 he was on the Committee for London Fire Department. In 1998 to 2003 he was President of London Fire then stepped down to become involved in O.P.F.F.A. From 1999 to 2008 he was on the Executive Committee Board for the O.P.F.F.A.
During the time in 1999 President was Henry Watson, Vice President was Fred Leblanc, Brian George was District Vice President and Executive Director was Wayne Demille. 2001 Fred Leblanc became the President with Ron Gorrie as VP. 2003 Brian George was elected as Executive Vice President.
Brian Georges role on the Committee included lobbying the government for legislation changes. Efforts included having types of cancers and other diseases recognized as occupational diseases and assisted firefighters in seeking compensation from WSIB.
Mr.George met Paul Atiknson and Colin Grieve around 2001. They were both members of the O.P.F.F.A WSIB Committee. Their responsibilities were to educate Active members with regards to the W.S.I.B. process. Mr. George understood that both Atinkson and Grieve took it upon themselves and were involved in W.S.I.B. Advocacy work for Retired Firefighters and spouses of deceased firefighters; which neither were dues-paying members of O.P.F.F.A. Atkinson and Grieve had not received remuneration from the O.P.F.F.A.
In late 2004- OPFFA created the Occupational Disease Committee (ODC), which Mr. Atkinson and Mr. Grieve were appointed as sole members.
O.P.F.F.A. copied the template created by the Hamilton Firefighters Association- Letter of Agreement. Asking Retired firefighters and spousal claimants to make a voluntary donation to OPFFA as well. Donations were based on a percentage of WSIB awards. Originally 1.5% then to about 5%. No one was under any obligation to make a donation, the donations were fully voluntary. Active firefighters never made any donations.
In 2004 Paul and Colin notified the OPFFA Executive Committee Board about monetary giftd that were being offered by retirees and spousal claimants recognizing them for the work that Paul and Colin were doing on their behalf. This issue was discussed among several members of the OPFFA Executive Committee Board including Fred Leblanc, Barry Quinn, Brian George and all District Vice Presidents. These discussions came up many times while Mr. George was on the OPFFA Executive Committee.
Mr. George remembered that some members were not comfortable with the notion of receiving monetary gifts from retirees. While other members, including Mr. George himself, was perfectly fine with the process. As other OPFFA Committee members were receiving monetary gifts for Interest Arbitration and Advocacy work from Active dues-paying members. Many of the O.P.F.F.A. Executive Board Committee members felt that what Colin and Paul were doing was no different than the monetary gifts received by the other Interest Arbitration Advocates.
The OPFFA Executive realized it would be difficult to refrain Paul and Colin from receiving gifts while continuing to let interest Arbitration Advocates receive their monetary gifts.
In 2008 at the time Mr. George stepped down, the OPFFA had not made a decision and never created a Policy or set guidelines for Occupational Disease Committee or the Interest Arbitration Advocates. After talking to the O.P.F.F.A. accountant, they did advise Colin and Paul and the Interest Arbitration Advocates that any monetary gifts received would have to be reported for tax reasons.
Paul and Colin followed the advice from OPFFA accountant and started their legitimate business called PFAI and paid appropriate taxes. Mr.George stated he was not surprised that Paul and Colin did in fact, follow the OPFFAs direction and created a corporation for their work. Mr.George stepped down in 2008 and was unsure the happenings after that time. The lawyer for OPFFA asked him about information about Colin and Paul’s business after 2008 but Mr.George stated he had no knowledge, as he was not around and “it would be inappropriate to comment” on things that occurred after he was no longer involved with the OPFFA. Mr.George informed the court he himself, had done Interest Arbitration Advocacy work for many years and had created his own business as well. He too reported any monetary gifts, as per OPFFA’s accountant’s direction.
Thursday November 22nd, Witness #16 Phil King:
Phil King Treasurer of London Fire Department attended Milton Court to swear to his testimony.
When asked in regards to the money and lawsuit, he said that he “couldn’t recall” exactly when he personally found out. But did hear there was a “situation” “I believe” the membership found out as well,
Jason Timlick and O.P.F.F.A lawyer gave
When asked about the remaining 61 families that had not been contacted,
Mr. King stated he had started interviewing for the lawsuit in May 2016 after the charges were laid.
Later in Mr. King’s testimony he said that the membership did in fact vote on going forth with the Occupational Disease lawsuit. Mr. King “could not recall” if he was in attendance at the Convention when the O.P.F.F.A announced the lawsuit and couldn’t recall exactly which convention.
Mr. King stated that he personally never had received any complaints from any families, it was “Carmen Santoro who told me about Paul and Colin”.
When asked if he was sure he had never spoken to the Arnold family, again
Pre-Judicial Hearing is set for Monday, Feb 4. The trial will give an opportunity for both O.P.F.F.A union and the Defendants, who have been accused of misappropriating millions of dollars taken from the Occupational Disease Fund to bring forth their collective evidence.