The Toronto Star

4-YEAR-OLD UNION SUIT SETTLED OUT OF COURT


Phinjo Gombu
June 10, 2000, Saturday

A million-dollar lawsuit launched against Local 183 of the Labourers' International Union by nine former business agents who claimed they were wrongly fired has been quietly settled out of court.

The only record left of the tangled four-year-old lawsuit involving one of Ontario's most powerful and colourful construction unions is a terse note on court documents from Mr. Justice Blenus Wright of the Superior Court of Justice: "May 29. Case settled. Action dismissed."

The terms of the settlement weren't disclosed, and it happened suddenly, just one week after the lawsuit finally went to trial last month on May 22.

After four days in court, the case was adjourned for the weekend and, after extensive discussions among lawyers, it was suddenly all over.

The lawsuit was first launched by nine business agents who were among the dozen or so agents fired from Local 183 of the union in 1996.

The firings took place shortly after the election of Antonio Dionisio to the position of business manager. It is the most powerful position in the union's local executive.

The fired agents were part of a group that backed another candidate.

Before the elections, Dionisio had been charged in 1995 with offering a secret commission and defrauding the government after Star articles showed how Eric Ferguson, a federal bureaucrat who recommended $1.6 million in grants for Local 183's training centre, had his house renovated by union members.

Ferguson was later charged with accepting a secret commission and pleaded guilty, but Dionisio and another union employee, John Colacci, were acquitted by a judge.

Dionisio was elected to the position of business manager by the membership less than a week after his acquittal.

Documents filed in court last month showed that the nine agents were claiming damages of almost $1 million.

Brian Grossman, a lawyer for Dionisio and a group of other officials from Local 183, refused to comment on the case except to say that the case had been dismissed.

"I have no knowledge of any settlement, Grossman said.

Pressed further, Grossman said: "Draw whatever conclusions you like. It's not mysterious, but if you've done a lot of this work, you'll be able to gather why I can't tell you any of it.

Dionisio did not return a call from The Star.

Neither did Anthony Ball, a lawyer for the fired business agents, and Tony Rodrigues, the first to testify at the trial last month before it suddenly ended.

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