Thursday, January 27, 2000

John Duncanson and Jennifer Quinn

p. A1.


Police chief threatens union boss over True Blue fundraising scheme

Lastman called to play referee in volatile dispute

A heated battle over a controversial fundraising campaign by the Toronto Police Association has exploded into all-out war between Chief David Boothby and defiant union boss Craig Bromell.

Threatening to charge Bromell and his union executive if they don't toe the line, Boothby is finally putting his foot down after watching the union's power grow to the point where it has alarmed and frightened city politicians and community.

The outspoken Bromell last night shrugged off Boothby's threats — defying the brass as he's done for the nearly three years he's led the Toronto Police Association — and vowed to continue Operation True Blue, his controversial telemarketing fundraising campaign.

While Boothby warned of disciplining police union executives at yesterday's police board meeting. Mayor Mel Lastman's police board colleagues gave him the task of trying to talk the stubborn union leader into ending Operation True Blue by next Wednesday.

But The Star has learned the union intends to send a letter to the police services board after its own board meeting early next week, defying the mayor and saying the campaign won't end.

The telemarketing campaign had outraged politicians, lawyers and community groups, who say it is nothing more than a ploy to collect money for a union plan to investigate its critics.

Bromell defiant

Even before the board meeting got started, Boothby fired the first salvo when he issued a statement saying Bromell and his union executive were "still police officers and subject to any lawful order from the chief."

Bromell only responded with cool resolve. "The only one I take orders from is my own board of directors," he told The Star last night. "If they want to charge us, we'll challenge it."

"As far as I'm concerned, it's business as usual. Boothby is only saying it because he's on his way out. Why didn't he do this three years ago?"

Over the past two years, as the association's tactics have become more and more aggressive, politicians, lawyers and community leaders have begged the chief to rein in the outspoken Bromell. the chief has been reluctant to do so publicly.

Until now.

"I think, quite frankly, they have really crossed the line. I really do," a stern Boothby said before yesterday's police services board meeting, one of his last as leader of the Toronto force.

"I think this True Blue campaign has set off a real flavour of disapproval in the public."

While the issue of the union campaign has upset Boothby, he seems more perturbed by Bromell's insistence that he doesn't have to take orders from the chief while he serves as union president.

Bromell has taken the position that because he was ordered by Boothby to turn in his gun and badge when he won the union job in 1997, he is not technically a serving police officer and therefore not subject to regulations in the Police Services Act.

Boothby made it clear yesterday he believes Bromell is still, on paper, a police officer and under his direct command. How that conflict will be resolved is unclear, but the union seems to be counting on the fact that when Boothby retires in a month, nothing will have happened.

Following a heated battle at yesterday's police services board meeting, the mayor was given a week to come up with a solution to the campaign that has left some citizens confused, community groups frantic and politicians running scared.

As critics lined up in the packed boardroom to rail against the union, a jovial Bromell walked confidently through the hallways of police headquarters, shaking hands and laughing.

That nonchalance may lead to a court battle, promised by the mayor and the rest of the board if the union doesn't stop the True Blue campaign.

Yesterday, Lastman at one point characterized the union as "evil," but appeared to have softened his position by the time the board met at 2 p.m.

After meeting for almost an hour yesterday morning the mayor and the union boss emerged to say only that they were working hard to find a solution.

"It was 50 minutes we met and 50 minutes of arguing," Lastman told the board. "it was a rough meeting, but I feel we should give it one week."

The seven-member board reluctantly agreed to Lastman's suggestion, despite demands from former mayor John Sewell, Councillor Anne Johnston and lawyers representing various community groups that legal action be taken to stop the campaign.

Critics contend the fundraiser is simply a money-making scheme to fill the union's war chest with cash to target its enemies, mainly politicians.

"Let me tell you, I feel intimidated today," Johnston (North Toronto) said as she asked the board to put its collective foot down to stop the campaign.

"You're taking your political life in your hands coming here and adding yourself to the list of people who will be politically targeted in the next election."

Vice-chairman Jeff Lyons — who pounded his fist on the boardroom table in a rare show of anger at the union — said he had some major concerns about the campaign, which solicits funds over the telephone.

Lyons a Toronto lawyer and lobbyist, takes the threats of intimidation seriously. He said he's had his office swept for recording devices and believes he's been followed by the union's private investigators.

Lawyer Julian Falconer, representing the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and the Chinese Canadian National Council yesterday, was outraged nothing was done to stop the campaign immediately.

"Everyone is running scared," Falconer said. "This board is in disarray."

Critics and politicians quickly accused the union of trying to collect money to pay for its team to collect money to pay for its team of private eyes, who have, in the past, been used to investigate its enemies.

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: October 8, 2000
Last modified: October 8, 2000
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