Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Former OPSEU boss Warren 'Smokey' Thomas speaks to reporters at Queens Park in Toronto in a file photo on Jan. 21, 2019.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

The former president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, has called the recent allegations of financial improprieties made against him by the union “bogus” and is vowing to defend himself.

Mr. Thomas released a statement on Tuesday afternoon, just a day after OPSEU filed a lawsuit accusing him and two other former union executives of improperly using millions of dollars in cash and assets for personal enrichment.

The statement, issued by Mr. Thomas’s lawyers, Jeffrey Kroeker and Frank Portman of Toronto-based Massey LLP, said the lawsuit was riddled with “errors, falsehoods and untrue allegations.”

“Mr. Thomas rejects the claims against him and intends to defend his good name,” the statement read.

The union alleges that Mr. Thomas, who served as president of OPSEU for 15 years before retiring from the union last April, along with Eduardo Almeida, the former vice-president and treasurer of OPSEU, paid themselves “significant compensation” they were not entitled to and transferred union-owned assets such as vehicles to themselves and family members free.

The suit also accuses both men of paying out cash from the union’s strike fund to themselves and a third union executive, Maurice Gabay, and entering into “agreements,” which ultimately enriched themselves at the union’s expense.

The allegations have not been proven in court and none of the accused have filed statements of defence. Mr. Almeida could not be reached for comment, and Mr. Gabay did not respond to a request for comment.

Tuesday’s statement to the media suggested there was “politics” behind the accusations and that Mr. Thomas would not speak publicly about the allegations until he files a statement of defence.

The statement added that as president, Mr. Thomas was hailed as a “tough but fair leader” with a reputation of being “honest and caring.”

The lawsuit claims that Mr. Almeida owes the union $3-million in funds that he allegedly took; Mr. Thomas owes $1.75-million; and Mr. Gabay owes $1-million. The union is seeking an additional $6-million in damages.

According to the lawsuit, OPSEU’s current leadership, headed by newly appointed president JP Hornick, first became concerned about Mr. Thomas and Mr. Almeida’s conduct when they failed to adequately account for large expenditures incurred by the union. The union’s executive board hired a third-party forensic accountant in early 2022 to perform a thorough audit of the union’s finances in light of the alleged discrepancies.

OPSEU has said that the union’s finances remain “stable” and that the audit continues.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe