Saturday, July 28, 2007

Evidence-tampering in CUPE police complaint

CUPE members in Vancouver are on strike and a stench can be detected. It is not the stench of garbage left uncollected, it is the stench of CUPE's dirty laundry.

A former secretary to two CUPE Presidents is talking.

The secretary continues to talk about the police complaint CUPE lodged against her after she complained of the "non-union sweatshop" they were quietly operating at Local 116 at UBC. VPD Constables Megan Herrmann and Kevin Ng -- who don't have jurisdiction at UBC -- left voice mail and showed up at her home. Their message: muzzle yourself about unfair labour practices inside CUPE.

When the secretary got a copy of the police report, she was shocked to discover that letters she had sent to CUPE President Barry O'Neill and BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair about unfair labor practices inside CUPE had been submitted as "evidence". Copies of these letters were enclosed with the police report. This fact has been discussed in a previous post, "CUPE Strike Haunted by Secretary Scandal". What is new is that the DTES Enquirer has learned that the police report pertaining to the CUPE complaint was retroactively altered roughly a year after the case had been labelled "CLOSED".

The alteration of the police report occurred after the whistleblowing secretary contacted CUPE President, Barry O'Neill, and BC Federation of Labour President, Jim Sinclair, in writing in 2003. She informed O'Neill and Sinclair that as long as the unfounded "WORKPLACE HARASSMENT" notation remained adjacent to her name in police records, she would ensure that it remained on their public records as union leaders. Speaking up about workplace conditions did not constitute "WORKPPLACE HARASSMENT", she reminded them. It was then that the term "WORKPLACE" disappeared from the police report -- even though the case had been labelled CLOSED by the VPD the previous year. The secretary doesn't know who changed the "offence" for which she was investigated but she can prove that it was changed in the police file long after the case had been closed.

It was quite by accident that the secretary stumbled upon the change. It was when she received documents from a second Freedom of Information request, that she noticed that the Vancouver Police had retroactively changed the offence for which she had been investigated. The offence was changed from "WORKPLACE HARASSMENT" to "HARASSMENT/ OBSCENE COMMUNICATION". She suspects that the term "WORKPLACE" was dropped as a form of damage control, to reduce potential embarrassment to union leaders -- but she can't prove it.

What she can prove is that there was nothing harassing or obscene about her communication with labor leaders. Her letters, which remain on file at the VPD Property Office, can be used to confirm this. "What was obscene about this situation was the way people who worked for CUPE were treated", she says.

The fact that the whistle blowing secretary had been investigated for the specific offence of “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT” and not "HARASSMENT/ OBSCENE COMMUNICATION cannot be disputed. "WORKPLACE HARASSMENT" is clearly typed at the top of the police report she obtained through Freedom of Information shortly after CUPE called police on her. And the fact that the case had been "CLOSED" in Dec. 2002 is also typed on the police report. Further, the DTES woman has preserved correspondence from the VPD informing her that the “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT” notation would remain on the police PRIME data base permanently. It did remain on the police data base until after she contacted O'Neill and Sinclair in 2003, after which time the "WORKPLACE" angle for which she had been investigated disappeared.

The whistle blowing secretary sees this retroactive alteration of an investigated "offence" in a closed police file as a form of evidence- tampering. She speculates that it may have been prompted by the fact that she was requesting a criminal investigation into labor leaders involved in this case. It was "no secret", she says, that she wanted union leaders criminally investigated for public mischief for lodging what she considered to be an unfounded police complaint. [Context: When CUPE lodged their complaint in Dec. 2002, the lodging of unfounded criminal complaints to silence vocal Downtown Eastside residents was an epidemic problem. Inspector John de Haas stated in one case involving the Vancouver School Board that bureaucrats lodging unfounded police complaints against political adversaries could justifiably face "public mischief" investigations, if a victims requested them. An advocate on the Downtown Eastside was advising residents to seek public mischief investigations in such cases.]

The whistleblowing secretary says CUPE and police were well aware that she had never visited or telephoned her CUPE "WORKPLACE" after leaving her job there. There was no workplace harassment and that fact was just too obvious so, in her view, somebody arranged for the "WORKPLACE" element to get retroactively disappeared. "I e-mailed Jim Sinclair in 2004 and I asked him if he had any idea who that somebody was," she says. He didn't respond. But she did preserve a copy of her e-mail to him.

There was no workplace harassment. There was no harassment, period. That's the position of the whistleblowing secretary."I have as much right as CUPE members [currently] on strike to protest about working conditions."