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Fired profs want criminal investigation of Laurentian

They’ve penned a letter to Ontario attorney general, asking him to launch investigation
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Laurentian University.

Two professors who were among those terminated by Laurentian University in 2021 have penned a letter asking Ontario Attorney General Douglas Downey to consider launching an investigation of the activities of former LU leaders for possible legal violations.

The March 5 letter to Downey was written by Eduardo Galiano-Riveros and Reuben Roth, two of the more than 100 faculty members fired by Laurentian nearly two years ago as part of its insolvency restructuring.

Laurentian University exited creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (or CCAA) late last year, after 22 months.

The letter requests that Downey “consider an investigation of the Laurentian University administrators’ and board of governors’ activities between 2010 and 2020.”

They ask for this investigation based on the findings detailed in Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s report on Laurentian University, which was released last November.

Galiano-Riveros said he and Roth sent the letter to settle the question that has been hanging in the air since Laurentian first filed for creditor protection under the CCAA more than two years ago.

“And that is to settle the question of whether or not there was criminal wrongdoing in the last 10 or so years of the conduct of the financial and administrative affairs of Laurentian University, on the part of the board of governors and/or administrators,” he said.

“It is very clear that the auditor general thinks so, and we do have reason to believe that there have been multiple episodes of violations of the law.” 

Galiano-Riveros said they also sent the letter because LU’s insolvency has resulted in “broken careers, broken lives, broken friendships, and most importantly, a broken university,” which he said cost taxpayers more than $300 million.

“The only way that the taxpayer is going to get some idea or a better idea of how, who and through what window that money was thrown out, is through a thorough investigation on the part of law enforcement organizations,” he said.

Galiano-Riveros said the auditor general did an excellent job of her report on Laurentian, but she did a value-for-money audit, and “does not have a mandate to pursue a criminal investigation.”

Sudbury.com reached out to the Ministry of the Attorney General about the aforementioned letter, and received the following brief emailed response.

“We respectfully decline your request for comment,” reads the statement. “In general, the investigation and laying of charges is a function of police services and is independent of the Attorney. Also note, the Ministry of the Attorney General cannot provide any legal advice or legal interpretation for members of the public or media.”

Sudbury.com also received a brief written statement on the matter from Laurentian University interim president Sheila Embleton.

Embleton, who is seconded to Laurentian from York University for the interim role following the departure of former Laurentian president Robert Haché last year, only joined LU at the beginning of 2023.

"I am focused on the future of Laurentian University,” said Embleton, in the statement.

“We've begun the process of establishing a new strategic plan and operational transformation. These are key steps in allowing Laurentian to fulfill its potential as a bilingual and tricultural institution. There is a lot of collaborative work ahead and we're focused on this transformation."

Galiano-Riveros said it’s certainly Embleton’s job to rebuild Laurentian after its exit from the CCAA, but he reminds those who are of this opinion that “they are not dealing with broken careers and they are not dealing with broken lives like the rest of us who were terminated two years ago are dealing with.”

The letter to Downey from Galianos-Riveros and Roth said the auditor general’s report “documents evidence of financial mismanagement, misappropriation of funds, potential fraud, and violations of several provincial statutes.”

These statutes include, but are not limited to, the Public Sector Compensation Restraint to Protect Public Service Act, the Broader Public Sector Executive Compensation Act, the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act, and the French Language Services Act, said the letter.

Galiano-Riveros and Roth gave several examples in their letter pulled from Lysyk’s report, including Laurentian University changing certain senior administrators’ titles to circumvent provincially mandated salary restraints for people filling designated positions at the university.

“These changes were fabricated for the sole purpose of skirting the provincial legislation,” said the letter.

“In summary, we therefore believe prima facie that there is enough evidence of legal violations on the part of Laurentian University Administrators and Board of Governors Members during the 2010 – 2020 period, to warrant a formal investigation.

“We thank you for considering this request to investigate the allegations cited by the Auditor General of Ontario.”

Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA) president Fabrice Colin said his union was not party to the two professors’ letter, and only learned of it early this week.

He said LUFA has not contacted the attorney general to ask him to look into possible legal violations. Colin said the auditor general’s report is a government document, so the province is aware of the report’s findings, and the possible legal implications.

However, he said he supports any initiative that helps shed light on what happened at Laurentian University.

Colin said his union continues to push for a public inquiry into Laurentian’s insolvency. Laurentian’s unions also intend to move forward with a civil legal claim against past LU leadership. The goal would be to recover damages on behalf of union members and retirees.

Heidi Ulrichsen is Sudbury.com’s associate content editor. She also covers education and the arts scene.


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