King of The Weasels
The more you follow this case, the more you realize the Canadian judicial system is a farce. Here’s some food for thought…..if a petty and weaselly person wanted to destroy your life all it would take is for them to prepare and submit a lie infested Statement of Claim and file it at the Superior Courthouse, thereby initiating a frivolous lawsuit. And if the subsequent court case is anything like OPFFA vs. Atkinson and Grieve, three and a half years could go by and that very same weaselly person wouldn’t have to answer one single question regarding their Statement of Claim. You, on the other hand, will have to use every last cent defending yourself.
It’s absolutely dumbfounding that Carmen Santoro has never had to answer one single question regarding his Statement of Claim filed back in April of 2016. But, keep in mind that weasels are known to be quite clever. One week after filing the Statement of Claim, Santoro stepped down as president of the OPFFA, along with five other members. Unexpectedly, Santoro was diagnosed with PTSD and terminal cancer. Due to Santoro’s illness he was unable to testify regarding his Statement of Claim. The incoming OPFFA president, Rob Hyndman, was then declared the new affiant. Not only was this permitted without Santoro having to produce a doctor’s note, but also Hyndman became his substitute even though he knew nothing about the case. Hyndman hadn’t even started at the OPFFA when Atkinson and Grieve had stepped down from the Occupational Disease Committee. This was strategically planned by Santoro… file this vexatious lawsuit, cut ties with the OPFFA, and then sit back and watch a green new OPFFA president become the fall guy.
If you recall, Hyndman perjured himself in his affidavit. Realizing he would have to answer to his lies in court, he, too, was suddenly stricken with illness and was unable to testify. He was shipped off to a clinic in Virginia to be treated for his PTSD and Opioid addiction. The musical chairs continued with Ann Bryan becoming Hyndman’s affiant. Once again, the judge permitted this substitute without Hyndman having to produce a doctor’s note, just a simple letter from his lawyer was sufficient. And just like Hyndman, Bryan had no knowledge of the issues at hand, she also hadn’t started with the OPFFA until after Atkinson and Grieve had vacated their positions. And just like Hyndman, Bryan perjured herself in her affidavit. One can only imagine what’ll happen when it comes time for Bryan to testify! Is she the new fall guy?
It comes as no surprise that Hyndman and Bryan were able to submit their affidavits while knowing nothing about the events in question. After all, Santoro knew nothing as well. This is a crucial point that must be understood… when Atkinson and Grieve began with the OPFFA Henry Watson was the President, after him it was Fred LeBlanc, and after Leblanc it was Mark McKinnon. That’s three presidents who had no problems with how Atkinson and Grieve ran the OD committee, but one week before stepping down Santoro suddenly had a problem? You can already hear the Santoro fanboys saying “those presidents didn’t know what was going on”.
Firstly, Brian George’s (ex-OPFFA executive) stated in his sworn testimony “Sometime around 2005, Colin and Paul approached the OPFFA Executive Committee about offers of money they were receiving from the retiree and spousal claimants in recognition for their work on the WSIB files. The issue of their compensation was discussed among members of the OPFFA Executive Committee, including myself, on numerous occasions between 2005 to 2008. LeBlanc was also involved in these discussions,…..There were, at that time, no rules prohibiting the receipt of monetary gifts from third parties involved in the claims. I was aware –as, to my knowledge, were the other OPFFA Executive Committee members – that interest arbitration advocates were also receiving monetary gifts from the arbitrated Locals from time to time. I personally felt – as did some of the other members of the OPFFA Executive Committee – that the receipt of monetary gifts by Colin and Paul was no different than receipt of monetary gifts by the Interest Arbitration Advocates. We, the OPFFA Executive Committee, discussed the fact that it would be difficult to penalize Colin and Paul for receipt of such funds on the one hand while not penalizing the interest arbitration advocates for receipt of their monetary gifts on the other…..We did advise Colin and Paul, however, that any money received by them would have to be reported by them for tax purposes. This was in keeping with the advice provided by the OPFFA’s accountant. I, and the other Executive Committee members, were advised by the OPFFA’s accountant that any monetary gifts received from interest arbitration had to be reported for income tax purposes by the individual recipient as income.”
Secondly, it wouldn’t have been rocket science for the OPFFA Executives to understand that Atkinson and Grieve ran a business. Every year since 2005 the OPFFA executives attended the Ontario Fire Fighters Memorial Ceremony which honours the fallen firefighters whose names have been inscribed on the monument. That being the case, every year, right before their eyes, was a database (no disrespect intended) of any firefighter that may have died due to an occupational disease while retired and who possibly received a WSIB award. For ten years the OPFFA executives witnessed names being added to the wall, why didn’t they put two and two together and deduce that donations had gone missing? But Santoro would have you believe that he alone uncovered this grand conspiracy, and those past three dimwitted OPFFA presidents couldn’t see the clues right before their eyes. This is a trait of a narcissist, trying to portray themselves as the only person intelligent enough to see the conspiracy and crack the case. Fact of the matter is, as Brian George stated, all the executives knew that Grieve and Atkinson had a corporation.
Yes, Santoro has made our judicial system look like a farce. But he didn’t do it alone, he had some friends in high places. Santoro had a couple of strong quid pro quo relationships…career politician and former MPP Kevin Flynn, and Oakville Mayor Rob Burton. There’s a strong connection between public safety employees and politics. It’s quite normal to see local fire Associations all over Canada courting certain politicians and political parties.
Firefighters need to have strong relationships with those who have power over their professional lives, whether it’s local, provincial, or federal. And Professional firefighters carry a lot of political clout. No politician wants to be seen as opposed to them, but rather, would love to have this heroic image of firefighters in their corner. And it’s not just the image politicians want, it’s the firefighters’ labour as well. Due to shift work, firefighters can offer a politician access to 24/7 labour such as canvassing and pounding in election signs.
And this was the ‘quid’ Santoro provided to Kevin Flynn helping him to eventually become the Liberal MPP representing Oakville, Ontario. In 2014, Kevin Flynn became the Minister of Labour for Ontario. On April 5th of 2016, Ontario passed legislation (Bill 163, introduced by Kevin Flynn) that created a presumption that PTSD diagnosed in First Responders is work-related. Now here comes the ‘quo’……less than two weeks later on April 17th, 2016, Carmen Santoro became the first firefighter in Ontario to go off years, although during that time he was still able to earn an income performing his duties as the president of the Oakville Professional Firefighters Association, and also earned an income as an Interest Arbitration Advocate. Remarkably, during this time off Santoro was cured of his terminal cancer. Perhaps the Oakville newspaper could do a piece on Santoro on beating terminal cancer, it would be inspiring and helpful to so many others suffering with cancer.
In the Provincial election of 2018, Kevin Flynn lost his seat thereby having to vacate his role as Minister of Labour. The gravy train was over, and it was right about then when Carmen Santoro returned to work from his stint on WSIB.
Throughout the years, it was no secret that Santoro and Mayor Rob Burton were quid pro quo buddies. It was quite normal to see Santoro and other like-minded Oakville firefighters pounding in election signs for Burton. As the Oakville Association president, Santoro was left with free rein to bully and berate members at will without fear of reprisal. The Department Chiefs bent the knee to Santoro, fearing what would become of their careers if Burton received a complaint about them from Santoro. Competing mayoral candidates would even taunt Burton about this relationship with Santoro. It’s widely believed Santoro colluded with Burton (head of the Halton Police Services Board) to have Halton police bring down charges on Atkinson and Grieve, even though the OPP threw out the case. Santoro is still wreaking havoc as the president of the Oakville Association, but rumor has it that Burton is distancing himself in an attempt to mitigate the upcoming fallout.
Santoro’s perceived power gave him a sense of entitlement. He thought he could lie, cheat, and manipulate to fulfill his need for excessive attention and admiration. It infuriated him that Atkinson and Grieve received all the accolades for advancing WSIB coverage for occupational diseases. When Atkinson and Grieve left the OPFFA Santoro knew he could no longer ride their coattails. So shortly after, he filed his lie infested lawsuit and resigned from the OPFFA, but not before he tipped off the media and all the firefighters across Ontario.
Here are some of Santoro’s lies from his Statement of claim:
Santoro implied that it was the OPFFA that altruistically initiated assisting retired firefighters and their families with their WSIB claims. He stated “the OPFFA had a strong desire to ensure that retired firefighters and their families received the necessary support to make WSIB claims and receive the compensation they deserved. He went on to say that without the OPFFA’s support, many potential claimants would lack the financial resources and knowledge to successfully pursue a claim at the WSIB.”
Not only is this statement disingenuous but it’s also contrary to how the OPFFA actually felt about retired firefighters. In 2015, a retired Pickering firefighter, Jerry Pedwell, gave a presentation to Santoro and OPFFA executive board in hopes of finding a way to utilize retirees. From the minutes of that presentation, the OPFFA clearly expressed their disdain for retirees. The OPFFA stated they did not want retirees saying they were OPFFA members or represent the OPFFA in any way. They commented on the fact that when six Toronto locals were amalgamated and it was time to rewrite the constitution they purposely omitted any reference to retirees. But when it came time for Santoro to write his Statement of Claim he did a 180 and referred to the retirees with reverence. Clearly, for the OPFFA, retirees are just a means to fill the coffers.
To add insult to injury, Atkinson and Grieve’s work with retirees far preceded the OPFFA’s by nearly a decade. Through their own locals, Atkinson and Grieve had been travelling province wide doing work for retirees. As a result of a TV documentary and TV show, which featured Paul and Colin, retired firefighters were calling them directly for assistance. From there, these retirees told Colin and Paul about other coworkers that needed assistance and Colin and Paul sought those firefighters out. It wasn’t until many years later that the OPFFA commenced assisting retirees, using a plagiarized Letter of agreement belonging to Colin and Paul.
Santoro stated that “Atkinson and Grieve were agents of the OPFFA and their duties as agents included representing active and retired members and families of deceased members before the WSIB on behalf of the OPFFA”.
This is a blatant lie. Atkinson and Grieve were never agents of the OPFFA. They simply sat on a committee. There was no binding contract between committee members and the OPFFA. It’sludicrous to think that by sitting on a committee this automatically creates an invisible binding contract.
Santoro stated “the individuals who sought assistance from the OPFFA for WSIB matters did so in reliance on the OPFFA’s reputation”.
This is a ridiculous statement, just a rhetorical tool used by a fool. It’s neither evidence nor proof, it’s only words trying to convince others to his point of argument. In fact, people sought out Grieve and Atkinson based on their reputation. They were the foremost authority on these matters in Canada. As stated previously, they’d been featured on a nationwide documentary and TV show. The only reason retirees seeking WSIB assistance contacted the OPFFA was to talk to Grieve and Atkinson.
Santoro stated “their authority (Atkinson and Grieve) to appear before the WSIB was completely derived from the OPFFA, their ability to represent individuals before the WSIB was facilitated by the OPFFA”.
Wrong! Atkinson and Grieve’s ability to represent individuals was facilitated by the many courses they completed, and hours upon hours of studying. And all of this completed long before joining the OPFFA OD committee. And, they received their authority to represent individuals before the WSIB from their own local associations. Again, they had been successfully representing individuals from across Ontario and from across Industries for many years prior to the OPFFA.
Santoro stated “the similarity between OPFFA and PFFAI [sic] and PFFA is not accidental. Atkinson and Grieve named the company and designed the PFFAI [sic] Letters of Agreement for the deliberate purpose of misleading claimants into believing funds provided pursuant to it were destined for the OPFFA”.
Let’s get something straight here, the acronym for Atkinson and Grieve’s company is PFAI, it’s short for Professional Firefighters Advocacy Incorporated. How does one confuse OPFFA with PFAI? But let’s look at the acronym OPFFA. It can stand for Ontario Provincial Firefighters Association, or Oakville Provincial Firefighters Association, or Orangeville Provincial Firefighters Association, or Orillia Provincial firefighters Association, or Ottawa Provincial Firefighters Association, or Oshawa Provincial Firefighters Association.
Literally, a cheque intended for the Locals in Oakville, Orangeville, Orillia, Ottawa, or Oshawa can be deposited into the OPFFA’s (Ontario Provincial Firefighters Association) chequing account. Are you following? Therefore any cheque that Carmen received which was intended for the Oakville Professional Firefighters Association, or any of those others, could easily have been cashed by the OPFFA. Has anybody attempted to see the books of the OPFFA? Good luck with that. Firstly, they’ll never share the books with you, and secondly they use QuickBooks to do their accounting … meaning they can record their finances any which way they want. At the next convention, when the boys are drinking $40 glasses of scotch, whose money are they using?
Santoro stated “Neither the OPFFA nor any of its directors, officers or employees were aware, at any time, that Atkinson and Grieve were requesting and receiving direct compensation from WSIB claimants”.
This is a blatant lie. Brian George gave his sworn testimony in court stating everybody at the OPFFA knew that Grieve and Atkinson had a business and were receiving compensation from WSIB claimants.
Santoro stated “Atkinson and Grieve used their own “letter of agreement” that was confusingly similar in form and content to the OPFFA Letter of Agreement as a means of securing unlawful payments”.
Ridiculous! Atkinson and Grieve had been using that letter of agreement for a decade prior to the OPFFA. It was actually the OPFFA who created the confusingly similar letter of agreement to Atkinson and Grieve’s.
Santoro stated that Atkinson and Grieve declined to collect money on behalf of the OPFFA.
Atkinson and Grieve were not a collection agency for the OPFFA. However, they did collect over $700,000 worth of donations and submit to the OPFFA. Santoro conveniently forgets to mention this fact. Atkinson and Grieve worked on behalf of retirees and their families, but they were not employees of the OPFFA, they sat on a committee. They had absolutely no responsibility to collect donations from the families of retired firefighters. However, there was nothing to prevent the OPFFA executives from calling these families and asking for donations themselves.
Santoro stated “Shapiro and Furmanov and their professional corporations were instrumental in orchestrating the defendants scheme. They provided the trust account that served as a financial vehicle in which Atkinson and Grieve retained WSIB awards to coerce payments from WSIB claimants.
This is another blatant lie. If you received a cheque for $500,000 payable to the estate of your deceased spouse do you think it would be possible to walk into your local bank and deposit it into your personal account? Most likely not. Perhaps the bank may do you a personal favour for a $10,000 cheque and allow you to deposit it into your personal account, but for large amounts it must go through probate. Cheques payable to a deceased person or their estatecan’t be deposited into a personal account, even if it’s the beneficiary or the spouse. For this to happen they must have an Estate account at the bank. If there is no Estate account the executor of the estate must apply for and obtain an Estate Certificate from the appropriate court. This certificate gives the bank comfort that the person named in the certificate has the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets. Believe it or not, upon the issuance of this certificate the province of Ontario charges a fee of $15 per each $1000 of value (on amounts over $50,000). So for a WSIB award of $500,000 where the spouse or family doesn’t have an Estate account and therefore needs an Estate Certificate, the fee would be $7,500 plus additional lawyer’s fees.
The province of Ontario permits certain trusts accounts whereby assets can be rolled over without having to be probated. As such, the funds can be dispersed without paying Estate Certificate fees, in our scenario that’s a savings of $7,500. Atkinson and Grieve witnessed widows paying $10,000 to have their awards probated. Atkinson and Grieve were introduced to Sherwin Shapiro, he had one of these trust accounts whereby he could save the widows and families a great deal of money. This was a huge act of kindness by Atkinson and Grieve. They introduced the widows and families to Shapiro and Furmanov and that was it. If the widows and families chose to use them to save money it was their prerogative.
It’s quite disgusting that Santoro vilified Shapiro and Furmanov and spread filthy lies over something that was earnest. Shapiro and Furmanov are two professionals who helped the widows of fallen firefighters and their families to save huge sums of money. They did not deserve to be treated like this. Shame on you Santoro!
Santoro stated “the OPFFA was unable to secure the funds necessary to finance Atkinson and Grieve’s activities…..The OPFFA was led to believe by Atkinson and Grieve that the causeof the funding deficit was that (i) a large number of claims were being held in abeyance awaiting the passage of presumptive compensation legislation.
Santoro knows exactly why funds started to diminish. In fact, Atkinson and Grieve’s business also failed to grow. The reason being was all the large claims had already been done. Atkinson and Grieve were already successful in having seven more cancers approved, and all of those claims had already been processed. Atkinson and Grieve didn’t lead anyone to believe that claims were being held back in abeyance. They worked on the claims as the came in and processed them immediately. The only claims that were waiting to be approved were the Esophageal cancer claims. Atkinson and Grieve had done all the work on those claims and had submitted them, but the WSIB claimants and the OPFFA had to wait until legislation changed in 2007 for any claims to be approved.
Santoro states “ the OPFFA received a complaint from the widow of a deceased OPFFA member who had been represented by Atkinson and Grieve in WSIB proceedings. The complaint raised the possibility that Atkinson and Grieve had improperly deducted monies from WSIB awards for their own benefit.”
And this is where Santoro’s plot began. He somehow talked a widow by the name of Bev Bamlett into concocting a story and testifying against Atkinson. Basically saying that when Atkinson worked on her claim she became very suspicious that he was trying to scam her. Ends up Bamlett never called the OPFFA to lodge a complaint, she was actually contacted by Carmen Santoro and asked to file a complaint. This is what he needed to launch the law suit, a widow’s complaint. Aside from her, there was absolutely not one single complaint over the conduct or work of Atkinson and Grieve. Contrarily, there were plenty of glowing reviews regarding their work.
Bev Bramlett’s husband worked for the Vaughn Fire Department. After he passed away she tried unsuccessfully for years to have her claim approved. A Vaughan firefighter had started her claim but later retired, then the claim was handed 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, then decided to help her with her claim. He started the claim while he was with the OPFFA, but in 2015 Atkinson and Grieve stepped down from their roles at the OPFFA. Atkinson continued to work on her case with no affiliation with the OPFFA. After Atkinson’s final submissions to the WSIB, and going to Tribunal, her claim was finally approved. It took several months for the benefits to be paid out, during which time Bamlett called Atkinson many times to see what was causing the holdup. Bamlett testified that she received $1.2 million, plus all her children’s education and her own education were paid, and she now also receives a monthly pension of $4,000 (all tax-free). All as a direct result of the work of Atkinson and Grieve. After her payout Atkinson called her to ask 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
responded by saying he was paid by the OPFFA. She did not compensate Atkinson or Grieve one single cent for their work, instead she donated $7,500 to the OPFFA, and $7,500 to the Vaughan firefighters. She stated “why would I pay Atkinson and Grieve when it was Vaughan who did all of the work”.
Atkinson and Grieve received nothing, they did not complain nor question her decision. Even after this insult, Atkinson continued to do work for her on an appeal, and again received nothing for his work. Attendees of the pretrial stated Bamlett seemed neurotic when she gave her testimony, as though she was making it up as she went along. She testified that she thought Atkinson was trying to steal her money, and suspected he was taking deductions off her award, and that he might commit banking fraud against her.
All these lies from a woman who was awarded over a million dollars, plus a pension for life, who didn’t pay a cent to Atkinson and Grieve. It’s absolutely disgusting! One can only imagine how Santoro was able to get her to spread these vicious lies.