Lawyers for for former OPSEU president dismiss allegations

Legal counsel for Warren "Smokey" Thomas, a Kingston native and the former president of Ontario's Public Service Employees' Union (OPSEU), says allegations from the union of financial improprieties are untrue.

Thomas, along with former first vice-president and treasurer Eduardo Almeida and former financial services administrator Maurice Gabay, was named in a suit from the OPSEU seeking repayment along with damages of over $6 million.

The suit alleges that Thomas, Almeida, and Gabay took an unearned $5.75 million from union funds by taking action that led to the union leaders being paid "significant compensation to which they were not entitled"along with "significant expenses on their behalf for undocumented and non-business related purposes."

The former union leaders are also alleged to have transferred union items, in particular vehicles, to themselves or family members and paid out strike fund cash to Gabay.

In a statement to OPSEU members and staff, current President JP Hornick said a forensic audit began after a new board was elected in April, and through the assistance of a third party auditor the alleged issues came to light.

He says the union is dedicated to seeking justice for this.

"Today’s statement of claim is just a first step," Hornick says in the statement.

"I want to be clear to you, our staff and members, and the people of Ontario who we dutifully serve, that we will not waiver in our commitment to seeking justice in this matter, and we have the full support of the Board to pursue all available legal avenues."

Jeffrey Kroeker, one of Thomas' lawyers called the allegations "bogus" and said the claim is “riddled with errors, falsehoods, and untrue allegations" - adding that Thomas is reviewing his legal options and won't comment further.

Thomas served a record fifteen years as the president of OPSEU, first elected in April 2007.

He worked as a Registered Nurse Practitioner and began his union leadership career as president of Local 431 at the Ontario Psychiatric Hospital in Kingston before joining OPSEU's executive board in 1993.

The union is seeking the $5.75 milion it alleges was unlawfully transferred to Almeida and Thomas, along with over $6 million in damages.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News