Saturday, February 5, 2000

Nicolaas van Run and Paul Moloney

p. A1.

True Blue still headed for court

Police board wants end to all fundraising

Toronto's police services board will press ahead with a court challenge to permanently end police union fundraising activities, board chairman Norm Gardner says.

Despite the Toronto Police association's about-face Thursday, when it announced the abrupt cancellation of its controversial True Blue telemarketing campaign, "the board is still going ahead with the injunction," Gardner said yesterday.

"There were no assurances that political fundraising will not resume in the future."

Police Chief David Boothby, still fuming over the union's campaign, said rank-and-file police officers simply want to get on with the job.

"This sort of political nonsense really, should never have taken place," a subdued Boothby told a news conference at police headquarters.

"I think our members have spoken out loud and clear that Operation True Blue was not well thought out, did not serve their interests well and, certainly, public reaction was very negative."

Saying he wants to get back to business, however, Boothby announced he will no longer pursue charges against union executives for disobeying his order to stop the campaign.

Mayor Mel Lastman said yesterday he thinks Toronto's men and women in blue should simply get rid of the union executive that led them into the contentious telemarketing campaign.

"They should be calling an election, and they should be calling an election quickly," Lastman said.

Speaking in a media scrum at Nathan Phillips Square and addressing his remarks directly to police union head Craig Bromell — who wasn't there — Lastman was brutally frank.

"Well, let me tell you, Mr. Bromell. In your own words, if you are going to keep these things up, I am the enemy, and my name is Mel Lastman, and it's me you're going to have to fight, because I love our police force and I'm going to protect our police force from bullies like you."

Bromell, Lastman stressed, "embarrassed the city, and it's not only him." "I think it's the whole union executive."

The union leadership, Lastman charged, has "gone over the line," and the mayor urged rank-and-file police officers to lose no time in replacing the association's leadership.

"What I say is they should be calling an election, and they should be calling an election quickly," Lastman said.

Bromell himself remained uncharacteristically quit and out of sight yesterday.

As the storm of controversy generated by True Blue began to abate, the union president took the advise of his colleagues and family and remained out of the media limelight while he ponders his next move.

One key question he and other union executives face is what to do with the estimated $300,000 raised during the campaign's early days.

Asked whether the money should be returned to the donors, Lastman left no room for doubt. "Most definitely," he responded. "It should either be returned or donated to charity of some kind."

The police services board has also demanded that the cash be returned, and that database of names and telephone numbers be destroyed.

The death of Operation True Blue, which came last Friday but wasn't announced by the union for another six days, has left the cop on the street feeling relieved.

The campaign, one veteran officer said, "was very unprofessional and reduced, in the eyes of the public, the image of police. "The image was substantially reduced by that ridiculous campaign," the 17-year veteran said.

He urged the ouster of Bromell and his fellow executives.

The police union is already nursing the wounds generated by the True Blue imbroglio

"We need people who will speak for us and not speak for unionism and stuff like that," said the constable, who did not want to be named. "There are far more important issues that need to be addressed than this kind of stuff."

Another officer, a 13-year detective, said Bromell has done a great job for the association and its members, but "stepped over the boundary" with Operation True Blue.

"The tactics employed by Bromell are unprofessional," said the detective, who asked to remain anonymous. "This thuggery and intimidation is very, very unprofessional."

The police union is already nursing the wounds generated by the True Blue imbroglio.

It's debating whether or not to cancel a scheduled "lobby day" at city hall because 36 of Toronto's 58-member city council have told them not to bother dropping in.

In a letter to the union written Thursday, the councillors said: "Given the recent events of the association executive, we are contacting you to let you know that we have no wish to meet individually with you at this time, and hereby cancel the scheduled meeting."

The union must decide whether or not to challenge the new police board bylaw banning it from soliciting funds for political purposes.

And it's got to decide whether or not to go ahead with a lawsuit it said it would file against former city councillor and police board member Judy Sgro.

Now the Liberal MP for York West, Sgro accused the union of intimidation during a 1998 meeting.

While the union claims there is no truth to the accusation, the executive must decide if it's worth the cost of pursuing the matter in court.

Provincial Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty blamed the Conservative government of Premier Mike Harris for making True Blue possible.

Noting it's bad enough that Harris has refused to denounce the telemarketing campaign, McGuinty said the Tories "quietly and deliberately" passed a regulation in 1998 allowing police to organize such fundraising efforts.

"It was Mike Harris who was the effective enabler when it came to making it possible for the police union boss Craig Bromell to launch this terrible campaign of intimidation," McGuinty said.

He called on the government to repeal the legislation.

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

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