Former exec director of North York Symphony sues board for wages
Filion states he wasn’t board member, seeks city help for legal fees
(Updated and revised article for the Town Crier.)
Willowdale Councillor John Filion has settled a lawsuit involving a former North York Symphony employee who claimed $50,000 in unpaid wages for her final years of employment.
City council decided to foot the bill for Filion’s legal expenses.
Trouble is Filion says he was never a member of the board and doesn’t understand why he was named in the suit to begin with.
The claim for the symphony’s former director, Linda Rogers, was filed with the Ontario Superior Court last summer. Since then, a judge has ordered Filion and another individual served with papers to pay Rogers damages.
Rogers lawyer James McDonald of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell confirmed in an early February interview that he and Filion’s lawyer have reached a settlement.
Filion says the original inclusion of naming him in lawsuit is puzzling.
“I never attended any board meeting,” Filion said Jan. 18. “I don’t believe I was ever on the board. I especially was not on the board by anyone’s account in the period when the employee (Linda Rogers) alleges they weren’t paid in 2008 and 2009.”“The whole issue has nothing to do with me,” he said.
In a summary judgement the court ordered Filion and Krajny to pay Rogers a total of $34,336.37 plus $1,150 in costs plus two percent interest starting Nov. 22, 2010, according to court documents.
Filion sought outside counsel to defend him against the judgment and on Jan. 17 the city’s Executive Committee recommended the taxpayers foot the bill for both him and councillor Maria Augimeri, who was named in the suit but has not yet been served. And city council followed suit on Feb. 6-7.
The city has an * indemnification policy to cover municipal politicians’ legal expenses including civil actions “resulting from the councillor performing the duties of a councillor.” But as Filion said he was never on the board the city’s insurance may not cover him.
Filion said the whole issue is like a Twilight Zone episode.
“If you are sued for being on a board you were never on, they (city) doesn’t cover your legal fees,” he said, which is why the matter is being debated.
City solicitor Anna Kinastowski explained that Filion was likely asked to be on the Symphony’s board, whether he actually was a member or not, because he’s a politician.
“He’s being approached because he’s a politician,” she said in a Jan. 18 interview. “The issue was did he in good faith act in his role as a councillor.”
If city council agrees at its Feb. 7–8 meeting to help the councillors fight this allegation, the money would come from the council’s general expenses budget.
Rogers claims in the court documents that she worked for the symphony also known as the Toronto Philharmonia from about May 23, 2006 to her resignation on April 1, 2009.
Her annual salary was $45,000 plus a $5,000 bonus at the discretion of the board. Her role included fundraising for the symphony and the court documents state she obtained grants in the form of new funding to help put the symphony in the black.
Rogers was awarded a $5,000 bonus in the summer of 2007 but she agreed to the symphony’s request to postpone payment. She was paid her full salary in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, the symphony experienced severe financial difficulties and owed her money and she requested a periodic payment to clean up this back-pay, according to court filings. By November, 2008 she was reduced to part-time hours and agreed to accept a T-4 slip for 2008 stating she received $43,021.99 even though she was paid less.
By May 26, 2010 the documents state the Toronto Philharmonia advised her they did not have the ability to pay what they owed her, which she claims is $34,336.37 including the $5,000 bonus.
* The city’s indemnification policy and when councillors’ legal fees are covered is referenced on page 27 of the councillor expense policy. Or read the July 15/2008 report, which shapes the current rules on councillor indemnification policy (when legal fees, damages and costs are covered by the city).