VANCOUVER—The man who was in charge of finances for a Metro Vancouver union has been ordered by a court to repay $1.69 million in money he misappropriated, some of which he used to cover gambling debts.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck also ordered two adult children of Robert Victor Eric Ford to each repay the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 502 and a related society $2,000 that was deposited into their accounts.
In a decision released Friday, Affleck dismissed part of Ford’s defence where he claimed he had the authority to take the money under long-standing practices of the local.
“There was no practice that if known to the members of the union local that could have led them to authorize Mr. Ford to appropriate for his own use sums of money which greatly exceeded his aggregate salary and benefits for the years 2006 through 2012,” said Affleck.
Affleck said Ford, who served as secretary-treasurer from October 2003 and August 2012, was able to “perpetrate his dishonest scheme” because of the union local’s lax accounting practices.
He said the local paid its bills mainly by cheque, which Ford could manipulate, and frequently dealt with cash. He said the local often gave the secretary-treasurer blank cheques, and Ford took advantage of the procedure “by writing cheques in essence to himself and camouflaging his deceit in various ways.”
The judge adjourned the civil action by the union against Ford’s wife. His two adult children who were ordered to repay money were identified as Mitchell Ford and James Ford.
Robert Ford’s legal counsel declined to comment on the ruling.
Howard Mickelson, who represented the union and society in court, said his clients were pleased and grateful with the outcome, even though they know they will only see a fraction of the money.
In fact, the court document states that on the same day the civil action was filed in September 2012, the court froze Robert Ford’s assets up to $1.3 million. Later orders froze the assets of his wife, Teressa Dee Ford, and the couple’s children.
“Because of the nature of this union, and the union and the sense of, you know, brotherhood and the sisterhood, the union had no choice but to make sure that he was publicly called to account for what he did, even where the recovery was going to be a fraction of what he took,” said Mickelson.
He said members of the union local are brothers and sisters who have literally worked together over generations, and the level of trust is huge and the sense of betrayal is massive.
“This is a person they would have considered a friend and a brother,” he said.
The court document states union leaders became aware of Ford’s actions in August 2012, when the local’s president Chad O’Neill learned his secretary-treasurer had drawn about $400,000 from the bank account.
The court document states the two men met, and Ford told O’Neill that he “had got messed up with the wrong people,” who had forced “him to to do things with Local 502 money.”
Ford resigned from his position Aug. 20, 2012.
Ford then met with O’Neill and a past president of the union Sept. 12, 2012.
According to the court ruling, Ford told the two union officials he had “taken $200,000 to $300,000 from the union local because he had a gambling problem.”
Affleck said nobody denied the gambling problem during the court hearing.
The union is the bargaining agent for longshore workers south of the Fraser River, and the society acquires and holds real estate for the local.
Mickelson said the local represents about 850 members.