August 8, 1996
The federal government has claimed $425,800
in "inappropriate and excessive expenditures" of taxpayers'
money by a powerful Metro union's training centre.
But six months after the centre was asked
to repay the money, the government hasn't collected it and won't
say what, if anything, has been done to recover the funds.
The centre is run by Local 183 of the Laborers
Sources say government officials have quietly
told the training centre that Ottawa does not intend to collect
the money as long there is no negative publicity that would embarrass
The money was part of about $1.6 million
in federal grants issued in 1993 to the training centre to pay
for courses to retrain and improve the skills of union members
and unemployed people.
Funding was cut off after The Star reported
that Local 183 employees renovated the home of the federal bureaucrat
who recommended that the training centre receive the grant money.
Criminal charges were laid against the bureaucrat,
Eric Ferguson, and two top union officials.
Ferguson pleaded guilty to accepting a secret
commission and defrauding the government.
Tony Dionisio, Local 183's former president,
and John Colacci, the former training centre administrator, were
acquitted in June on charges of offering a secret commission and
defrauding the government.
After the acquittals, Dionisio was elected
as Local 183's business manager and Colacci was elected as a member
of the union's executive board.
Since his election, Dionisio has fired 15
of Local 183's business agents, who deal with union-management
issues and organize bargaining units.
Five of the seven business agents who ran
against his slate of candidates are among those fired.
In two letters sent Feb. 23 to Cosmo Manella,
administrator of Local 183's training centre, Human Resources
Development Canada says that a forensic audit done by Lindquist
Avey Macdonald Baskerville Inc. found evidence of questionable
Both letters, which were obtained by The
Star, said the auditors found that "the costs incurred by
the (training centre) were not all supportable, and certain internal
charges appeared excessive."
In one example, the government wrote that
the training centre "did not spend $100,509 of computer training
funding for the purpose of carrying out the training."
The same letter went on to request that the
training centre also repay an additional "$164,835 in inappropriate
and excessive expenditures, together with interest."
The second letter says that the training
centre "did not spend $93,681 of upgrading training funding
for the purpose of carrying out the training," and claims
a further $66,775 in "inappropriate and excessive expenditures."
Pamela Mintern, a spokesperson for the human
resources department, denied the government does not intend to
collect the money, saying "discussions are ongoing"
with the training centre.
"We certainly were very serious about
the letter we sent," Mintern said.
"We are seriously following up with
discussion. We have not received an answer from Local 183, but
in the meantime we are taking other action.
"We are not prepared to share with you
what that action is."
Manella said that Local 183 is "in discussions"
with the government over the money and he has asked its internal
auditors to "look through the whole thing.