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This article was published 4/8/2011 (3768 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A provincial probe into financial irregularities at a key public safety office has resulted in the sacking of Manitoba's fire commissioner.
The Free Press has also learned that in addition to the firing of Christopher Jones, deputy commissioner Justin Panagapko was also terminated, along with another employee.
The employees are alleged to have doctored expense claims, sources said.
It has yet to be determined whether a fourth employee will be terminated or will resign.
Manitoba Labour and Immigration, which oversees the fire commissioner's office, announced Tuesday in a memo to some of its contacts that David Schafer, a 14-year veteran with the fire commissioner's office, has taken over as acting fire commissioner.
Rick Stevenson, assistant deputy minister of labour relations with the provincial Treasury Board secretariat, said the government was first alerted to possible financial irregularities at the fire commissioner's office in late January.
Government auditors examined the office's books in May and June, Stevenson said Thursday. "They found what they believed to be irregularities that they wanted us to look at. We determined that actions needed to be taken."
Stevenson, citing confidentiality, would only confirm Jones had been terminated. He did not name the other three.
But sources said Panagapko was also fired. Reached by telephone at his East Kildonan home Thursday afternoon, he hung up on a reporter.
Jones could not be reached for comment. He has been employed by the fire commissioner's office for about eight years and was promoted to commissioner in November 2009.
He is also vice-president of the Council of Canadian Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners.
Before joining the fire commissioner's office, Jones was director of pre-hospital and disaster services for a Manitoba regional health authority.
At the government's request, Manitoba's auditor general, Carol Bellringer, has agreed to conduct a forensic audit of the fire commissioner's office's books, Stevenson said. He said it has yet to be determined how much money has allegedly gone missing. Police have yet to be involved in the investigation, he said.
Two of the four employees involved in the allegations are members of the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (MGEU), a union spokesman confirmed.
"We're aware of the allegations and we're proceeding with the matter as provisions under the collective agreement stipulate," the spokesman said, adding he could not comment further.
The Office of the Fire Commissioner touches the lives of Manitobans every day by enforcing fire and building codes, inspecting elevators and boilers, investigating fires and training firefighters and paramedics.
Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, said Thursday he was shocked to hear of the allegations.
"It is a very troubling development and we're going to work very closely with the government to ensure that if there are any issues, it gets cleaned up very quickly."
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.