Head of northern CAS took beds, TV, dishes, lawsuit claims
CFO terminated after sex harassment allegations against him accuses
officials of fostering ‘climate of corruption’
John Harrington, former chief financial officer of Tikinagan CAS, is suing the
agency for money he says his contract stated he would be owed if he resigned his
position. The agency says he was terminated with cause.
If a lawsuit against a northern Ontario children’s aid society is to be
believed, the retirement of the society’s executive director was an
When Ernest Beck vacated the residence provided by the Tikinagan society in
Sioux Lookout last summer, he “took with him all the furnishings owned by
Tikinagan, including beds, washer and dryer, fridge . . . couch, television
set, tables and all the dishes,” the lawsuit claims.
Tikinagan Child and Family Services then paid him $15,000 for the move, even
though the director presented only the “moving expense quote” rather than
“an original receipt of what had actually been paid to the moving company,”
claims John Harrington, Tikinagan’s former director of finance.
Harrington “ascertained later” that the retiring director “had moved on his
own (without the moving company), and had pocketed the full sum of $15,000,”
the suit claims.
The lawsuit, filed with Ontario Superior Court in Kenora, claims the alleged
incidents are part of “a climate of corruption and unethical conduct” at the
agency, whose $53-million budget is funded by the Ontario government.
Harrington is suing the agency for what he calls “severance pay” and other
benefits. He was “terminated for cause” last year after allegations that he
sexually harassed two women at a Christmas party.
In his lawsuit, Harrington claims he flagged the furniture and moving issues
with the incoming executive director, Thelma Morris, who he alleges ordered
that the $15,000 be paid and new furniture bought for the society’s
The suit claims Beck got Tikinagan to buy a new company truck for his use in
spring 2015. He retired in August and “insisted he would only pay $30,000 to
purchase that truck from Tikinagan,” though “the book value of that truck at
that time exceeded $45,000,” the suit claims.
The allegations have not been proven in court, and Tikinagan firmly denies them.
The agency adds in its statement of defence that all allegations of improper
conduct “are irrelevant to any matter arising from termination of (Harrington’s)
employment in addition to being spurious and vexatious. Alternately, they are
denied in their entirety.”
The agency, which serves 30 First Nations in a large area north of Thunder Bay,
has applied to have 28 paragraphs struck. All of them alleged financial
wrongdoing, mismanagement and discrimination against Harrington, who describes
himself as the only non-aboriginal in Tikinagan’s senior management during his
time there. The motion will be heard Aug. 4.
“In terms of the allegations of financial impropriety, those were raised for the
first time after Mr. Harrington had been terminated,” Tikinagan’s lawyer, Paul
Edwards, said by phone from his Winnipeg office. “They were investigated by the
agency in detail — all of them — and were found to be without merit in their
entirety after quite an exhaustive internal process.”
The investigation was conducted by the agency’s board of directors,, Edwards
The Ministry of Children and Youth Services, which funds and regulates Ontario’s
child protection system, was advised of the allegations but was not part of the
board’s investigation, Edwards added. He noted Tikinagan’s books are audited by
an independent firm every year.
The suit’s allegations include the failure of employees to pay income taxes and
Morris being kept off the “sunshine” list despite a salary of more than
$100,000. Harrington, 46, added in a phone interview that he does not have
documents that back up his allegations.
Tikinagan had 578 children in care in June 2015. It had a $571,000 deficit in
2015 and more than a $3-million deficit in 2014.
The Star emailed a list of the allegations to Morris and left phone messages.
Edwards, who spoke for the agency, said Morris would not speak to the Star.
The Star was unable to contact Beck. An email listing the allegations was sent
to the still active address he had at Tikinagan. A registered letter was also
sent to what the Star believes is his home in Thunder Bay. The Ontario
Association of Children’s Aid Societies did not provide a contact number or
email for Beck.
Harrington, an accountant, was hired in 2010 and promoted to chief financial
officer within a year. In May 2015, he signed a new contract that would give him
18 months’ salary plus benefits if at some point he resigned with 10 days’
The suit claims Harrington insisted on the generous terms because discrimination
had made his job “intolerable.” It claims Morris told him a “white person”
should not be director of finance.
In November 2015, two women, one a Tikinagan employee, accused Harrington of
having sexually harassed them at a Christmas party 11 months earlier. On Dec.
10, Harrington notified Tikinagan he would resign 10 days later. On Dec. 18,
after a report into the harassment allegations by an independent investigator,
Harrington was “terminated for cause,” according to Tikinagan.
In its statement of defence, Tikinagan claims the investigator “concluded the
plaintiff’s behaviour had been ‘intimidating, humiliating and offensive’ and
that ‘his own manipulation delayed any complaints from being filed.’” Harrington
calls that investigation “fundamentally flawed” and says the allegations “were
bogus or exaggerated.”
His lawsuit seeks $215,647, for 18 months’ salary and benefits he was to receive
under the resignation provisions of his contract, plus damages for “mental