A long-time Ontario Provincial Police officer could be facing disciplinary action by his employer for publicly criticizing its decision to relocate Sudbury's OPP search-and-rescue helicopter to Orillia.
An internal complaint against Orillia-based OPP helicopter pilot, Sgt. Dan Mulligan, was investigated by the service's Professional Standards Bureau after Mulligan wrote a letter to The Sudbury Star, The Star has learned.
Allegations of discreditable conduct and breach of confidence, as outlined in the Police Services Act of Ontario, are being levelled against Mulligan, The Star has learned.
When contacted, Mulligan confirmed he is facing disciplinary action, but would not comment further on the matter.
In his letter to the editor, published in the May 7, 2015, edition of The Sudbury Star, Mulligan, who is from Sudbury, said northern lives would be lost if the helicopter search and rescue team was transferred to Orillia, an hour's flight away.
A sergeant with the OPP's Aviation Services Section, Mulligan said his letter was his personal opinion and not "in any way designed to be representative of my employer."
OPP corporate spokesman Sgt. Peter Leon told The Star on Wednesday he couldn't comment on questions about any disciplinary action Mulligan may be facing.
Charles Young, an inspector with the OPP's Professional Standards Bureau, would only say he wasn't in a position to respond.
Young provided background on how internal complaints and those from the public are dealt with under the Police Services Act.
If a complaint is filed, an officer is notified and the matter could be resolved informally, with the officer given an opportunity to accept responsibility, said Young.
If the complaint is formal, a notice of hearing is issued to the member. If it goes to a first appearance, it becomes a matter of public record.
"Once it's there, then an organization would be in a position to speak about it," said Young. "But before it gets to that level, there is no discussion."
Nickel Belt New Democrat MPP France Gelinas, who was the first politician to slam the OPP decision to relocate the Sudbury helicopter, was angry to hear Mulligan could be facing disciplinary action.
"Every worker should have whistle-blower protection," said Gelinas, "and I don't care if you work for the OPP or you work in the hospital or you work for Ornge.
"Look at Orgne. If those workers had had whistle-blower protection, we would have saved three-quarters of a billion dollars, we wouldn't have driven our air ambulance into the ground, and tried to rebuild it from ashes and bits and pieces ...
"Every workplace should have whistle-blower protection and the OPP doesn't. They are not allowed to talk," said Gelinas.
She is questioning the validity of a review being conducted by the OPP on whether the helicopter search-and-rescue team should remain in Sudbury. That may be a moot point.
The Sudbury chopper has been redeployed to Orillia during the Pan Am Games, and Sudbury Liberal MPP Glenn Thibeault said he was told by Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi that it would stay in Sudbury until that OPP review is completed.
Thibeault said the OPP review will examine if other search-and-rescue resources in the North, such as Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry helicopters and those operated by the private sector, can support OPP teams if both police helicopters flew out of Orillia.
Gelinas said she has contacted Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry workers and they say they aren't trained for search and rescue missions, and that their aircraft fly higher and faster than OPP helicopters.
Gelinas has tried to get a date from the OPP when the Sudbury helicopter was being relocated, got tired of being "stone-walled" by the OPP and spoke to the three employees working at the Sudbury OPP helicopter base at Greater Sudbury Airport.
The engineer was laid off May 13, told to "clean out his tools" and has been sitting at home collecting full pay, according to the terms of his collective agreement. He will retire in a few months, she said.
One OPP pilot, the first officer, has left the OPP and gone to work for Orgne air ambulance, two hangars away from where the OPP chopper was stationed. The second pilot is working out of Orillia and is being "encouraged to move" there, said Gelinas.
She said she can't find out exactly who is conducting the review and what its terms of reference are. "But I can tell you there is nobody left in Sudbury. If the review was to say, 'Oh my God, we made a huge mistake,' they wouldn't have an engineer because they've laid him off," and there would only be one pilot remaining.
"To everybody on the ground, the deal is done. "
She said the only way we will get the Sudbury helicopter back "is if we shame them more than we did back in May. Shame on you for doing this," she said of the OPP decision.
When that decision was made in May, OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes said it was the right one. After studying helicopter use, "all indications are that the people of Ontario will be better served if OPP helicopter maintenance is centralized in Orillia," he said in a letter to The Star.
From May 2011 to September 2014, 75 per cent of calls for OPP helicopters were to southern Ontario. During that same period, the helicopter based in Sudbury flew north of Sudbury 162 times and south of Orillia 185 times, Hawkes said, while the helicopter based in Orillia flew north of Sudbury 30 times and south of Orillia 307 times.
"It's about improving service to the entire province, including Sudbury area: After the change takes place, the two helicopters will be staffed and available 365 days a year from 6 a.m. until midnight," he said.http://www.thesudburystar.com/2015/07/2 ... eaking-out