MANFF suing former employee for leaking documents

The Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters (MANFF) is suing one of its former employees for leaking documents that showed how the agency was spending federal money for 2011 flood evacuees.

Ted Ducharme released agency documents suggesting questionable charges

The Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters (MANFF) is suing Ted Ducharme, one of its former employees, for leaking documents that showed how the agency was spending federal money for 2011 flood evacuees. 2:01

The Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters (MANFF) is suing one of its former employees for leaking documents that showed how the agency was spending federal money for 2011 flood evacuees.

Ted Ducharme provided CBC News with MANFF documents that showed questionable overtime charges and receipts for more than $1 million for late-night snacks for flood evacuees.

The organization is suing Ducharme for releasing confidential documents. In addition to seeking damages, it also wants the leaked documents to be sealed.

Ducharme said even though he's facing a lawsuit, he does not regret coming forward.

"The public has a right to know how their money is being spent, so I don't feel bad in the least," he told CBC News outside court following a hearing on Thursday.

MANFF argues the documents belong to the agency and Ducharme breached its trust and code of conduct by leaking them to the media.

The organization also says it wants to prevent any other documents Ducharme may have from also being released.

MANFF officials have declined to comment on the lawsuit while it's before the courts.

However, a lawyer for the organization was overheard saying to Ducharme outside the courthouse, "We're fine with you being a whistleblower. We just want you to blow your whistle, not ours."

MANFF was originally tasked with disbursing federal funding to help First Nations members who were forced from their homes by severe flooding in the spring of 2011.

Over two years later, many flood evacuees are still staying temporarily in hotels in communities like Winnipeg and Gimli.

Started identifying problems

Ducharme started working with MANFF as a community liaison shortly after the flood, but he said he quickly started identifying things about the organization that bothered him.

Among the documents Ducharme leaked to CBC News were invoices and ledgers showing that MANFF paid Mona Lisa Ristorante, a Winnipeg bistro, more than $1 million over an eight-month period to deliver evening snacks to hotel-bound flood evacuees.

The restaurant charged MANFF up to $60 per person, per day, for those snacks. The daily cost became so high that it exceeded what the government allows for all meals, including breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks.

The federal government has refused to reimburse the provincial government for what it calls ineligible food costs.

Other documents that Ducharme provided showed that MANFF paid thousands of dollars in overtime and mileage expenses, in some cases to a senior official or the children of senior officials.

Ducharme and others have said the overtime that was billed took place in a period in which no overtime was warranted.

MANFF did explain the various overtime and mileage expenses, saying the overtime cases were the result of accumulated hours, but it never directly addressed the snack allegations.

In a statement last month, the agency said it did the best possible job in helping flood evacuees.

The federal government announced in June, after the leaked documents were made public, that MANFF will no longer be handling services for First Nations evacuees from the 2011 flood.

"I don't feel like I've done anything wrong. I don't feel like I betrayed MANFF," Ducharme said.

"I actually feel like this is a good thing for them because if they can root out the corruption, maybe the company can survive."

Federal whistleblower legislation that was recently introduced protects civil servants who come forward, but those laws do not apply to private employees.