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Over the past two weeks there has been a great deal of media interest in a September 4, 2002, report from CUPEs National Officers to all CUPE locals concerning an investigation into financial irregularities within the union.

Regrettably, much of this coverage has included false and unsubstantiated statements, damaging CUPE’s reputation and that of its leadership.

CUPE’s National Executive Board, meeting this week in Ottawa, had a thorough discussion of this matter. The Board gave its full support to National President Judy Darcy and National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Gnreux, confirming and affirming their decision to fully disclose the facts of this matter to CUPE locals and their decision to turn the matter over to the police for further investigation.

The elected leadership from across the country also expressed their strong determination to set the record straight, putting an end to the distortions and misrepresentations that have clouded the facts surrounding this matter.

In the months following the CUPE National Convention in November 2001, an internal investigation uncovered clear evidence of fraud by two companies. These companies made contributions to the Sid Ryan campaign for the position of National Secretary-Treasurer and then falsely invoiced CUPE to recover these costs. This is a criminal matter and for that reason has been referred to the police for investigation.

The investigation also revealed that other expenses for the Sid Ryan campaign were paid for by funds misappropriated from CUPE National.

The report to CUPE locals makes specific reference to the Sid Ryan campaign because there is no evidence of money being diverted to other campaigns.

Nowhere in the report is there any assertion that Sid Ryan was aware that CUPE National funds were being laundered through corporations to support his campaign. Nor is there any claim that Sid Ryan was aware that CUPE National funds had been misappropriated in support of his campaign.

In fact, the only person who has suggested such an allegation exists is Sid Ryan himself.

In a letter to a lawyer representing Mr. Ryan, dated September 20, 2002, CUPE’s lawyer states, “I can confirm that the Report to CUPE Chartered Organizations dated September 4th, 2002, does not contain any allegation that Mr. Ryan had any personal knowledge of the alleged financial improprieties.”

The former Managing Director of Finance and Administration, Mr. Camille Masse, was fired with cause because of his role in laundering CUPE funds to support the Sid Ryan campaign. No agreement in any form has been made to shelter Mr. Masse from further prosecution. There is no immunity. There is no deal. Any claim to the contrary is false.

Several media reports have made reference to a statement by Mr. Masse, which is said to confirm that Mr. Ryan had no knowledge of the fraud. In fact, the statement is silent on this matter. This information was confirmed in a September 20 letter to Mr. Ryan’s lawyer, which says, “[Mr. Masse’s] statement does not indicate anything about your client’s knowledge of any financial improprieties.”

On the advice of legal counsel, the contents of Mr. Masse’s statement were to be shared with members of CUPE’s National Executive Board only if they were to agree in writing to keep the contents confidential. Because Mr. Masse’s statement names names, our counsel advises us that its release in the absence of further evidence would be unfairly prejudicial.

Because Mr. Ryan has not agreed to respect the confidentiality of the letter, it has not been shared with Board members. It has, however, been turned over to the police to aid them in their investigations.

CUPE has gone to great lengths to assure that this matter is handled in as discreet and fair a manner as possible. There has been no attempt to impugn anyone’s character. The report from the National Officers presents nothing more or less than the facts.

The report to CUPE locals was never intended to be a public document and CUPE has made every effort to keep the contents of this report confidential. No copy of this report has been released by CUPE to the media or to the public.

Moreover, there is no political motivation behind the release of the report. It has nothing to do with personalities or politics. The report arises from a constitutional obligation on the part of the National Officers to inform CUPE members of any misappropriation of CUPE funds.

With respect to the timing of its release, the National Executive Board, at its meeting in May 2002, directed the National Officers to fully disclose the facts of the matter to CUPE locals.

Because Sid Ryan was running for re-election as president of CUPE Ontario at the end of May, the release of the report was delayed until after the election in order to ensure that under no circumstances could its distribution be construed as an act of political interference.

It was then further delayed in order to ensure that all the facts were checked and double-checked, and in order to seek an independent, third party to pursue the investigation.

It was only after evidence of fraud on the part of the second company was uncovered in August 2002 that the determination was made that there was no alternative but to hand the matter over to police for a thorough and independent investigation.

The past three weeks have been very difficult for CUPE as internal issues have received national media attention. Every effort has been made by CUPE to minimize the damage to the reputation of our union, our leadership, our members and staff.

Moreover, every effort has been made to ensure due process and to respect the rights of everyone involved. Just as CUPE would defend a member’s right to a fair and transparent review process, so too every effort has been made to provide those involved with the opportunity to present their case and clarify the facts.

We take our obligation to our members very seriously and take pains to assure the integrity of our union and the proper use of our members’ hard-earned dues dollars.

The amount in question totals $100,000. When compared with the huge frauds that have been perpetrated by the likes of Enron and WorldCom, it may seem like small potatoes. But for an average CUPE member who earns $28,000 a year, $100,000 represents the equivalent of fifteen lifetimes worth of dues, or the annual dues of more than 350 members.

We deplore the fact that funds were misused and we have taken and will continue to take strong action to ensure that it will not happen again.

We are fiercely proud of our union and its strong tradition of open, accountable and democratic leadership. We offer to the police our full cooperation in their investigation, wherever it might take them.

But we also reaffirm our determination to focus on the work ahead of us and the world around us, tackling the key issues that concern our members – fighting to improve wages and working conditions and to protect jobs and public services.


For interviews with National President Judy Darcy or National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Gnreux, contact:
Robert Fox, CUPE Communications
613 237-1590 - 613 795-4977 cell