is this the final nail in the oPFFA coffin?

The OPFFA lawsuit against Atkinson and Grieve is floundering badly, to the point where they [OPFFA] may have just pounded in the last nail in their proverbial coffin. What might this nail be? It’s titled “Policy 01-05: Advocate Compensation Policy. The OPFFA released this policy approximately a week ago (May, 2020), and it can be viewed at www.opffa.org/advocates.html.

Let’s start of by defining the word Advocate. Webster’s Dictionary defines an advocate as a person who pleads another’s cause, or who speaks or writes in support of something. 

One example would be an OPFFA/IAFF Interest Board Advocate. These are advocates appointed by the OPFFA/IAFF to assist dues paying Locals who are OPFFA and IAFF members. They generally assist Locals with their contractual issues with their municipalities. 

Another example would be a WSIB advocate. These are people who speak, write, or present for an injured dues paying active worker, dead or alive, before the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. However, they have no obligation to represent non-dues paying workers, dead or alive, or their estates.

Now, with that being said, it is crystal clear that 1) OPFFA Delegates, 2) Paul Atkinson, and      3) Colin Grieve have all been involved with advocacy work, and thereby can all be known as advocates. This work has been performed for at least two decades, and it has been performed without any written policy. Some parties performed it above the table, while others performed it below the table. That is to say, some created legal business entities, provided receipts, followed professional accounting practices, and paid taxes on their income. Contrarily, others chose to perform this advocacy work by the cover of night, leaving no trail, providing no receipts, and paying no taxes.

The timing of the OPFFA’s creation and release of Policy 01-05, governing advocacy work, is extremely peculiar. Coming on the heels of multiple criminal accusations against IAFF president Harold Schaitberger, and the cross examination of OPFFA president Rob Hyndman. It’s blatantly obvious that all the Shaitberger supporters (13th District V.P. Fred Leblanc, Toronto president Frank Ramagnano, past OPFFA president and current Oakville president Carmen Santoro, and current OPFFA president Rob Hyndman) are scurrying to protect their assets, and hedge against criminal prosecution just as Schaitberger is currently facing. With all the thievery, tax evasion, and fraud that has occurred at the local, provincial, and international levels over the last 30 years or more, it’s a safe bet this new advocacy policy will do more harm than good to the cabal.

It’s a safe bet that 99.99 percent of the OPFFA members, past and current, have no idea how much they have paid the OPFFA advocates over the years, and the manner in which these advocates were paid. Many of these 13th district field representatives (OPFFA/IAFF) were also members of the OPFFA executive board, some were also members of their own local executive boards (such as presidents Colin Hunter, and Carmen Santoro), some were also members of their own local committees, maybe even chairing their own Negotiating Committee (one example would be Oakville president Carmen Santoro, who is also Oakville’s Negotiating Chairperson). This is double and triple dipping at its finest!

Let’s make it a bit more clear how 13th district field representatives, otherwise known as OPFFA/IAFF Advocates, were compensated for their work in the past. Let’s say advocate John Doe from London goes to Ottawa to work on their contract. He would get a “sub” day, that is to say, another fire fighter from London would work in his place and the London local would cover the cost. Even though John Doe is not working in London, he would still be paid his salary by the city. Next, John Doe would bill Ottawa for any day he was supposed to have been working in London (at his going salary) plus any expenses. This money should supposedly make its way back to the London Association however many times it does not. John Doe would also routinely submit expenses to John his local, to the OPFFA, and to the local where he did Advocacy work (triple dipping). And to top it off, when John Doe completed his work in Ottawa he would charge them $10,000.00 to $20,000.00 for the Advocacy work, saying that it was a gift thereby not paying any income tax.

Now, in a feeble attempt to look above board and beyond reproach, the OPFFA has created a new policy to cover the asses of their advocates, and to create an income stream from the work of their advocates. If you haven’t read the new policy, please go and have a look. We’re sure you’ll find it just as nonsensical as we do.

Here’s a few points taken from the new policy. First off, any Local who is doing an Interest Arbitration cannot just choose an advocate on their own volition. Instead, they must work with 13th District VP Fred Leblanc in choosing who they are going to use and to pay. Yes, you heard it correctly, the OPFFA are now our dictators, they think locals do not possess the common sense required to choose an Advocate! Not only this, but if a Local working on their arbitration wants to use any OPFFA resources (database, human resources, office equipment, office, etc) they MUST conform to this Policy. Have the OPFFA lost their minds? Every local in Ontario has contributed to creating the data base, to paying the staff, and to buying the office equipment. But now if we do not adhere to this policy we cannot use the resources. This is ridiculous! By the way, what office or office equipment can locals use? Is the OPFFA, and this new policy, referring to the condo they purchased in Toronto, the one where Hyndman lives? In what circumstance would a local use that condo, except for boozing and chasing women with Hyndman.

This is how redundant the OPFFA have become…. they don’t even realize that every Advocate (non OPFFA sanctioned) out there has already downloaded all the files from the database, and don’t use any OPFFA equipment or staff. Those days are over. Plus there is a treasure trove of information that can be found at the Canadian Legal Information Institute. Interest Board Advocates basically just go to that website and cut and paste!

The OPFFA also states in extenuating circumstances, where disclosure and discussion has occurred between the OPFFA President, IAFF District Vice Presidents, and the Local, the OPFFA Executive Committee may approve payments outside of this policy. What exactly are they saying? Are they saying if words are passed between the Local and OPFFA President and/or IAFF District Vice Presidents, then they can ask for more money than the $13,000.00 they will already be billing? Are they saying that instead of the Advocate earning the fee, now the President and/or VPs make the fee? To whom exactly will they be approving payments?

If the OPFFA has it their way, they’ll have their fingers in the business and financials of every local in Ontario. Meanwhile, we as members can’t even obtain a copy of the financial reports or banking records of the OPFFA. Let’s be clear, the OPFFA is doing everything possible to control the actions of its members and locals.

Back to the Canadian Legal Information Institute, also known as Canlii. You can visit their website and find a list of Arbitration decisions dating back 23 years, and on each decision it states the advocate’s name. Keep in mind, this list does not include all the freely bargained contracts. By our calculations, in addition to the arbitrated decisions, there are well over 200 freely bargained contracts by OPFFA/IAFF advocates.

Here is a list of OPFFA / IAFF Advocates:

  1. Jeff Nestor            (OPFFA Exec. VP, Toronto Exec. Retired)
  2. Dave Stephenson (Ottawa President)                                                                                
  3. Henry Watson      (OPFFA past President, Hamilton President Retired, PFOFF Regional Director #3)        
  4. Carmen Santoro (OPFFA past President, OPFFA past District VP, Oakville President, Chair of Oakville Negotiating Committee)
  5. Ed Dickson            (OPFFA past District VP, Windsor President and VP)
  6. Colin Hunter         (OPFFA District VP, Guelph President)
  7. Mike Doyle            (Vaughan)
  8. Mike Palachik       (Pickering President)
  9. Bob McCutcheon  (Cornwall)
  10. Rob Greve,         (Sault Ste. Marie past President)
  11. Jim Lee (Past IAFF Chief of Staff under Harold Schaitberger, OPFFA past President, past Toronto President)

Some of these advocates have been doing this work for over twenty years. Jeff Nestor has worked on over 100 contracts, Henry Watson over 50 contracts, Dave Stephenson over 50 contracts. Based on earlier mentioned figures it’s easy to see that these three guys have made hundreds of thousands of dollars. Did they paid taxes…your guess is as good as mine?The rest of the advocates have made tens of thousands of dollars of unreported income, all from our dues paying brothers and sisters.

We would be remiss if we didn’t highlight the advocacy work of Oakville President Carmen Santoro, in particular, the advocacy work he does for his own Oakville local. The last contract he completed for Oakville was about a year ago. At the time he was an OPFFA / IAFF advocate, he was the Oakville President, and he was the Chair of the Oakville Negotiating committee. Santoro makes about $20,000.00/year plus expenses and per diems as Oakville President. He makes an additional $5,000.00/year as the Chair of the Negotiating committee. Now here’s the kicker, Santoro charged his own association $10,000.00 to be their advocate. And amazingly Santoro accomplished this advocacy work while off on WSIB for two years for his PTSD. Sorry to say, but what kind of pathetic sheep must you be to allow this guy to charge you ten grand to negotiate your contract when you are already paying him 5 grand as your Negotiating Chair!

Are you finally seeing behind the curtain? Santoro and his old OPFFA executive board members have been making hundreds of thousands of dollars of unreported income doing this advocacy work over the last two decades.  Were you aware they were making this money? But this money was not enough for them, so they went after two Canadian heroes, filing a ridiculous and vexatious lawsuit against WSIB Advocates Paul Atkinson and Colin Grieve. 

Atkinson and Grieve were WSIB advocates long before they were appointed to the OPFFA WSIB committee, and they were working on Deceased, Non-Dues Paying, Firefighters long before the OPFFA even considered helping this group of firefighters. It was Atkinson and Grieve who brought this demographic and the accompanying funds to the OPFFA. They brought over $765,000.00 of income to the OPFFA (although the OPFFA has not declared it as income). When Atkinson and Grieve received a gift of money from a family they did the correct thing, on the advice of OPFFA President Fred LeBlanc, Executive VP Brian George and now Deceased Barry Quinn, they started a business and paid corporate tax and GST/HST, and adhered to the CRA rules regarding gifts and fees for service work. In actual fact, it has taken the OPFFA almost 23 years to create a policy to do exactly what Atkinson and Grieve were doing more than 15 years ago.

In their criminal and civil trials Atkinson and Grieve have produced their financial records showing and proving taxes they have paid. It’s guaranteed that the OPFFA / IAFF advocates cannot do the same. All the OPFFA / IAFF advocates out there that are dreading the upcoming months where you’ll have to face the piper, you can thank Carmen Santoro, Rob Hyndman, and Fred Leblanc for bringing all of this into the light of day. Now all our past and present members can see the deep dark secrets of the OPFFA / IAFF Advocacy Program. Time to scurry off and sell your toys (BMW’s, Corvettes, Motorcycles, Cottages, luxury homes), it’s time to pay the tax man.

Truthfully, we would like to thank General Secretary-Treasurer Edward A. Kelly for showing the underside of the IAFF.

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