Friday, July 10, 1998

Phinjo Gombu

p. A7.

Police chief kept in dark over insurer in Doe case

Taxpayers' money to pay woman who sued police

The decision for Toronto police to fight the Jane Doe case for the past 12 years wasn't made by a private insurance company -- as suggested by police services board chair Norm Gardner -- but by a group of treasurers representing the former municipalities of Metropolitan Toronto.

And neither police board members, the chief of police nor city politicians were aware of that fact until yesterday.

'I'm amazed at the way things have fallen down the funnel'

It is, in fact, taxpayers money from a $45 million reserve fund that will have to pay Doe the $220,000 ordered by a judge after she found that police failed Doe by not warning her about a serial balcony rapist in 1986.

the startling revelation caught Gardner and other councillors by surprise, just before a lengthy city council debate that ended with council voting overwhelming to apologize to Doe and recommended against appeal.

"I'm amazed at the way things have fallen down the funnel," Gardner said. He had never been told by the city's legal department about this private self-insurance system, which is headed by a claims review committee, he said.

The issue of the insurer took front stage over the past two days after police board members said they couldn't comment on the case because of instructions from city lawyers that a private insurance company was handling the matter.

Women's groups and Doe's supporters have been calling for an apology by the police services board and the chief.

In fact, all along it was city solicitor Osmond Doyle and treasurer Wanda Liczyk who had the power to make the decision to appeal or not.

They just weren't aware of it until yesterday.

Self-insurance scheme set up by former Metro and municipalities

"That's government," an embarrassed Gardner said, before the debate began. Asked how the police services board, politicians and the chief could have been kept in the dark about such a thing, Albert Cohen, a lawyer with the City of Toronto's legal department, said that the circumstances surrounding the Doe verdict were murky and had taken time to sort out.

"There was no intention to mislead," Cohen said. He said the self-insurance scheme was set up by Metro Toronto and its municipalities in 1986 after a series of large claims against them made them uninsurable.

Over time, other insurance schemes came into being but Doe's case continued to be fought from city funds under the self-insurance scheme, Cohen explained.

The moves from private insurance to self-insurance to OMEX, the city's current insurer, were made in a compressed period around 1986, Cohen said.

'It was all part of risk management,' Chief David Boothby says

Cohen said the Toronto law firm of Weir and Folds was retained by the claims review committee, made up of the city treasurers, for advise on whether the Doe lawsuit should be fought or not.

"They (Weir and Folds) made the recommendations ... to defend," Cohen said. That recommendation and advise from an adjuster was taken into account by the claims review committee.

Lawyers Greg Richards and Bryan Finlay, with Weir and Folds, fought the lawsuit on behalf of the Toronto police over three month last year in Ontario Court, general division.

A spokesperson for Weir and Folds said the firm cannot discuss the case because of solicitor-client privilege.

Toronto police Chief David Boothby said he, too, was unaware of which company was insuring the police because it was all part of "risk management."

"I'm not aware of the insurance company. The officers deal with legal counsel but they wouldn't be aware of the insurance company."

"Balcony Rapist" case... [Fiona Stewart]

Created: February 14, 1999
Last modified: February 14, 1999

J.D. Jane Doe, c/o Walnet Institute
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710