POLITICS

Senior OPP Union Officials Take Leave As RCMP Investigation Heats Up

03/09/2015 05:05 EDT | Updated 05/09/2015 05:59 EDT
Raymond Boyd via Getty Images
WINDSOR, ONTARIO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 28: Ontario Provincial Police vehicle on February 28, 2015 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)
TORONTO - The RCMP has searched offices of the top Ontario Provincial Police union leaders as part of a criminal investigation, prompting the senior officials to step aside.

Ontario Provincial Police Association president Jim Christie and vice-president Martin Bain have taken voluntary leaves of absence following the RCMP search of their offices in Barrie on Friday, the union said in a statement Monday.

The union's chief administrative officer, whose office was also searched by the RCMP, has been placed on administrative leave.

RCMP Const. Jean Juneau said there is an open investigation into "individuals associated to the Ontario Provincial Police Association," but he would not confirm which individuals or the nature of the investigation.

"We received a complaint and to validate or to explore the information received on that complaint we needed to do search warrants," he said. "I can tell you there are absolutely no charges pending right now."

The investigation is in its preliminary stages, Juneau said. The RCMP went to Ontario Superior Court to obtain search warrants, but those documents have been sealed, he said.

The Ontario Provincial Police Association said in a statement it has fully co-operated with the criminal investigation by handing over items identified in the search warrant.

"The RCMP is conducting a criminal investigation and believed that evidence to support its investigation could be found in the OPP Association head office as well as the offices of president Christie, vice-president Bain and CAO (Karl) Walsh," it said.

"The association is in the process of obtaining specialized independent legal advice with respect to this matter."

Association directors Doug Lewis and Todd Provost are now the acting president and vice-president. Michael Briscoe becomes the acting chief administrative officer.

The provincial police began bargaining with Ontario last month, but the police association would not say what effect the leaves of absence would have on the negotiation process.

A spokeswoman for Treasury Board president Deb Matthews said the government has not received a request from the OPPA to delay bargaining.