A Burnaby-headquartered public sector union is suing the former treasurer of its community social services component over nearly $175,000 in union funds she allegedly misappropriated.
Lois Higgins was the treasurer of "Component 3" of the B.C. General Employees' Union (BCGEU) between June 2019 and May 2022, according to a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Sept. 15.
Component 3 includes BCGEU members who work in community social services, providing support to adults and children with developmental disabilities, women and children fleeing violence, youth-at-risk, child care, community justice services, Aboriginal services and employment services, among others, according to the union’s website.
With over 12,000 workers in the sector, BCGEU is the largest community social services union in B.C., the website says.
The BCGEU's notice of civil claim describes Higgins as "retired" but goes on to say she and the union are parties to a settlement agreement "which fully and finally resolves all currently-known outstanding differences arising from (Higgins’s) tenure as treasurer and her misappropriation of $174,718.11 from Component 3 funds over the course of her tenure."
Under the settlement agreement, the union says Higgins was required to pay BCGEU $174,718.11 no later than June 30, 2023.
So far, however, Higgins has not paid the union anything, according to the claim.
BCGEU is now seeking a court order forcing her to pay.
An appendix to the original notice of civil claim said Higgins had forged expense claims, using the names and signatures of other BCGEU members "on an ongoing basis during her term as treasurer."
The original notice of civil claim alleged Higgins deposited funds associated with the forged expense claims into her personal accounts.
Higgins further "breached her duties as a trustee of union funds" by submitting falsified expense claims under her own name for expenses unauthorized by the union, the original notice of civil claim said.
"This directly caused the plaintiff significant financial losses, as well as non-pecuniary damages," stated the original notice of civil claim.
BCGEU declined to answer any questions about Higgins's alleged misappropriation of union funds, including whether it was reported to police or union members.
"We do not comment on matters before the courts as we do not want to say anything that could prejudice the case," said an emailed statement from the union.
After the NOW's inquiries into the lawsuit, however, BCGEU filed an amended notice of civil claim.
Details in the original describing the alleged misappropriation were struck and another statement was added saying only that Higgins and the union are parties to a settlement agreement which had "resolved outstanding claims related to (Higgins's) misappropriation of funds."
The union told the NOW there were "factual errors" in the original appendix that were "corrected" in the amended civil claim.
The allegations in the BCGEU notices of civil claim have not been tested in court. Higgins has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.