RCMP probe into OPP union turns attention to Toronto-based travel agency
Mounties are looking into the activities of a Toronto-based travel agency that caters to police and other first responders as part of a wider criminal investigation into people connected to the union representing Ontario Provincial Police officers, the National Post has learned.
First Response Travel Group states in its marketing materials that it offers special rates for police officers, firefighters and paramedics, and identifies itself as a “Division of Leximco.” Corporate records show that a director of Leximco Ltd. is Andrew McKay, a Toronto lawyer whose client list includes a number of police associations, including the OPP Association.
Police were observed at Mr. McKay’s downtown Toronto offices last Friday, the same day that RCMP executed search warrants at the headquarters of the OPP Association in Barrie, Ont., and at people’s homes. Three senior members of the association subsequently stepped aside.
There have been no arrests or charges laid and police have not accused any individuals of wrongdoing. The reasons why the RCMP launched its investigation and conducted the searches is still sealed by the court.
“I understand that the RCMP is conducting an investigation into a complaint and that investigation is ongoing,” Mr. McKay said in an email. “As such, it would be improper for me to comment.”
Online biographical information shows that Mr. McKay is a former Toronto police investigator. As a lawyer, he specializes in representing police, doctors, lawyers and professional athletes accused of wrongdoing. His LinkedIn profile states that he also operates Amax Security Solutions, a security and investigations company, and Amax Intelligence, a fraud-mitigation company.
Corporate records list him as a director of Amax, which shares office space with Mr. McKay’s law firm.
A handful of lawyers work at the firm, which is located in a tower on a strip of high-end retail property across from the Royal Ontario Museum on Bloor Street West. Several police officers — some in uniform and some in plain clothes — arrived at the office at the start of the business day Friday, neighbouring tenants said.
Corporate registration documents for Leximco and First Response list a Klara Kozak as an administrator or partner. Her LinkedIn profile says she has been agency owner since May 2014. Reached by phone this week, Ms. Kozak said she was busy with a booking for a client and unable to answer questions about any connection between the agency and the OPP Association.
Two large dogs greeted visitors Wednesday at Leximco’s storefront office on Bloor St. West near Islington Ave., where Ms. Kozak declined to answer questions about any police searches, the company’s links to the OPPA or Mr. McKay.
“We have no comment,” Ms. Kozak said, asking a Post reporter to leave. When asked if someone needed to be a police officer or emergency services worker to book travel through the company, she said no.
Visitors to the First Response website are greeted by an image of a tropical resort and this message: “You Deserve a Holiday. Your job is to make everyone else feel safe and secure. Trust your travel decisions with a team that understands, you need the same.” Its website says first responders in Ontario, including the Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto Police Service, Toronto Fire Service and paramedics in Grey County “call us to enjoy preferred travel arrangements.”
Sgt. Peter Leon, a spokesman for the OPP, and OPP Deputy Commissioner Scott Tod said this week they had never heard of the agency. Meaghan Gray, a spokeswoman for the Toronto Police, said she had never heard of the agency either.
The website says its agents speak Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Spanish and French, and can assist with Russian visas.
First Response says it is registered with the Travel Industry Council of Ontario and lists a registration number of 5007930. A council representative said this week that Leximco is registered under the similar number 50007930, but First Response is not registered with the council.
The First Response Twitter page shows it has issued one tweet, has three followers and is following 22 people. One of them is Jim Christie.
Mr. Christie took a voluntary leave of absence as the president of the OPP Association on Monday in the wake of the police searches at the association’s headquarters in Barrie.
Martin Bain, the association’s vice-president, also voluntarily stepped aside, and the board of directors placed Karl Walsh, the chief administrative officer, on administrative leave.
The association, which represents 9,000 employees, said in a statement that these actions should not be considered admissions of wrongdoing.
Barrie police this week confirmed that they were called to the association office on Saturday when a staff person became concerned whether certain individuals were allowed to be on the premises or not. The matter was resolved without incident.
Josh Jutras, spokesman for the association, would not answer questions this week about any relationship between the association and the travel agency.
He did say that the law firm of Stikeman Elliott has been retained to provide legal advice for the association. A spokeswoman for the law firm said it had no comment.http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/03/11 ... el-agency/