June 13, 1996
The president of a powerful Metro construction
union has been acquitted of charges of offering a secret commission
and defrauding the federal government.
Tony Dionisio, president of Local 183 of
the Laborers International Union, was mobbed by supporters yesterday
in a North York courtroom that erupted in cheers when the verdict
John Colacci, former administrator of the
union's training centre, had been charged with the same two offences
but was also acquitted in Ontario court, provincial division.
Judge Charles Vallaincourt, who heard the
evidence in April and delivered his ruling yesterday, was highly
critical of the preparation of the charges and the way the case
He noted that the crown asked to amend the
"informations" the paperwork that explains the charges
- on four separate occasions after the charges were laid.
"This case is an example of the ever-increasing
tendency to put forth sloppy informations before the court,"
Vallaincourt said, pointing out that lawyers must prepare their
defences based on the informations.
"An information is the touchstone of
a criminal prosecution," he said, adding that the crown had
failed to prove its case, even without problems with the informations.
"I'm quite pleased with the decision,
and that's all I have to say," Dionisio said outside the
"Sure I'm happy with the verdict . .
.," said Colacci, who was surrounded by relieved family members
and friends. "I never thought we could be convicted for something
we didn't do."
The acquittals could not have come at a better
time for Dionisio, who is running for business manager of Local
183 in elections to be held this weekend.
Colacci is also standing for election to
the union's executive board, as part of a slate of candidates
aligned with Dionisio.
The charges were laid against Dionisio and
Colacci in February, 1995, after stories in The Star detailed
how a senior federal bureaucrat had approved $1.6 million in grants
to Local 183's training centre.
The stories outlined how some Local 183 employees
were sent to the King City-area home of the bureaucrat, Eric Ferguson,
to do renovations after the training centre received the grant
The Metro police fraud squad investigated
and laid the charges against Dionisio and Colacci, as well as
charging Ferguson with accepting a secret commission and defrauding
Ferguson pleaded guilty last fall and has
since been fired from his job as a manager with Human Resources
He was called as a crown witness to testify
against Dionisio and Colacci. Ferguson told court he had asked
several times to be invoiced for the renovations, and always intended
to pay, but the union never sent him a bill.
The acquittals are the final twist in Dionsio's
return to the good graces of Local 183.
He remained as union president after the
charges were laid, but his power was stripped by Joe Mancinelli,
the international union's eastern Canada director.
Mancinelli removed Local 183's entire executive
board after the charges were laid and has since operated it on
a supervisory basis.
He fired Dionisio as president last February,
but reinstated him after Dionisio and a small group of his supporters
began picketing the laneway of Local 183's headquarters, on Wilson
Ave., hoping to force an election that would return him to the