Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

First Nations firefighters file suit against whistleblower

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A whistleblower is being sued by his former employer.

Ted Ducharme released a thick stack of documents in May that allegedly support claims of financial misappropriation by staff at the Manitoba Association of Native Fire Fighters (MANFF) Inc.

Now, MANFF states in court documents that Ducharme's actions have damaged the not-for-profit agency's reputation and puts it at financial risk and open to further damage.

The allegations have not been proven in court. A statement of defence has not been filed.

Ducharme was a former flood liaison officer with MANFF, responsible for helping residents of flooded Lake St. Martin First Nation. He became unhappy with how MANFF staff were conducting themselves and questioned staff payments, trips and costs incurred by the group while it looked after the relocated Lake St. Martin residents. He left his job early this year and was formally dismissed in March.

MANFF was created in the 1990s to train First Nations firefighters. After the 2011 flood, it was also tasked with registering First Nations evacuees and arranging for their temporary accommodations.

Ducharme had compiled a dossier of invoices, pay stubs and other documents he distributed in May to the Free Press and others, including the federal government, which had already begun an investigation of MANFF.

Ottawa had hired an outside firm in February to conduct a management review of MANFF spending and practices after reports surfaced that MANFF had run up $1 million in catering costs with a Winnipeg restaurant and owed two rural hotels more than $2.3 million.

In documents filed recently in court, MANFF is seeking general and punitive financial damages from Ducharme. It also wants an order forcing him to return any MANFF documentation he allegedly improperly removed.

MANFF obtained a temporary injunction from the court on June 26 prohibiting Ducharme or anyone acting on his behalf from distributing confidential MANFF documentation or any other documents or copies belonging to the association.

The temporary order was renewed earlier this week and extended to July 11 for another hearing on the injunction.

Attempts by the Free Press to reach Ducharme on Friday were unsuccessful.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 6, 2013 A16

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