Mark Bonokoski

Fri, June 17, 2005

Deadbeat site a waste

Andy Renouf must still be rolling in his grave after Queen's Park's announcement last week that it will double the jail time for deadbeat parents to six months, and eventually post the pictures of the worst offenders on a government website -- already in place in Alberta.

To those who believe the Family Responsibility Office sometimes goes too far in its pursuit of financially delinquent parents, Markham's Andy Renouf has become a bit of a cult figure to the aggrieved -- taking his own life, via an exhaust hose into his car, after the government agency in charge of enforcing child-support payments in this province decided to smother him rather than give him room to breathe.

His suicide note said it all.

"Last week, my bank account was garnished, and I was left with a total of 45c in the bank," he wrote, providing more detail, of which there is no room to reprint here.

Suffice to say, however, he was pushed over the brink.

"I would have preferred to die with more dignity," he wrote, ending with the note that it was it was his "last will and testament that this letter be published for all to see and read."

And it has -- on the Internet -- every year for the last 10 years on the anniversary of his suicide.

Little did he know.

It is the Ontario government's veiled threat to post on-line pictures of the Andy Renoufs of the world -- and it is a veiled threat, considering the Liberals' propensity to protect the privacy rights of offenders over the rights of their victims -- that has raised some civil libertarian eyebrows.

But the proposal has no immediacy or any real need.

There is, in fact, a private website already up and running, and it has been there for approximately the same number of years Andy Renouf has been dead -- based out of Mississauga, and founded by a former debt collector named Jim Gouda, now the website's spokesman.

It can be found at www.wantedposters.com, and it carries the provocative heading, "Deadbeat Dads & Deadbeat Moms -- Child Support."

According to Gouda, no information is put on his website unless it has been confirmed by a legitimate third-party authority, complete with validated case number.

"We have had several lawsuits," Gouda admitted. "But we have yet to have a judgment against us, or an order to take down a poster."

When asked how many fathers his website may have pushed to a Renouf-like end, Gouda's response was to ask how many mothers had done "likewise" because deadbeat husbands kept them from providing for their children.

No solid answer could be found.

"Our sole purpose is to solicit information and find the whereabouts of the deadbeat, not to make editorial comment," he said, indicating the deadbeat parent information is posted free of charge, with the website supported by donations and "philanthropy."

When the site was last visited, the poster-of-the-week was of a Hamilton man -- born June 3, 1968 -- who allegedly owes his ex-wife, as of this May, some $4,700 in unpaid support.

It shows his picture. It give his name. It gives his case number. And it also gives his last known address.

It took all of five minutes to track him down.

He is listed in the phone book ... and at "his last known address," no less.

Reached by telephone, the now-remarried man claimed he has been paying his ex-spouse $110 a week -- "religiously" -- for the last 13 years, even though she has not allowed him to see their now 15-year-old daughter for the last three years, despite a court order for her to comply.

He did admit to owing almost $4,700, and gave reasons.

"The first year we separated, I paid her in cash, hoping we might get back together," he said.

"But, when that didn't work out, she told the authorities I never paid her a dime.

"And, because I paid cash, I have no paper trail to prove that I did. So I was stuck -- my word against hers."

He claimed, however, that he has slowly been making retribution for that technically "delinquent" year over the last five years by paying his ex-spouse an extra $50 a week -- the $160 weekly total now eating up more than half his net pay as a blue-collar labourer.

His math adds up.

What doesn't add up, however, is his picture on a website outing deadbeat parents.

"I think I'd better see a lawyer," he said.

You can call Mark Bonokoski at (416) 947-2445 or e-mail at mark.bonokoski@tor.sunpub.com

Source

www.OttawaMensCentre.com

613-797-3237