Skip to content

Burnaby firefighter fired by city after posing with Hells Angels later got settlement, says new doc

Florian's Knights, a new film about a controversial firefighters biker club started in Burnaby, says the city fired co-founder Nick Elmes and then settled with him, allowing him to retire with no disciplinary record
A new documentary is shedding light on a controversial firefighters motorcycle club started in Burnaby five years ago – including the fate of a Burnaby firefighter who helped found the club before it disbanded amid a flurry of negative media attention in 2018.

Former Burnaby firefighter Nick Elmes, who co-founded the North Burnaby-based Florian’s Knights Motorcycle Club, was fired by the City of Burnaby in 2018.

The Vancouver Sun had published an article about a photo of him suggesting links between the Florian’s Knights and the Hells Angels.

The photo showed Elmes posing with three Hells Angels, including Kelowna chapter president Damiano Dipopolo, whom Elmes has described as a friend from his old East Vancouver neighbourhood.

Lambert Chu, Burnaby’s city manager at the time, said Elmes had been terminated after a city investigation into the Florian’s Knights “including the news story published in the Sun and Province newspapers.”

In a new documentary titled Florian’s Knights, Elmes talks about the firing.

He reads out the city’s termination letter, which stated he was being terminated with cause.

But Elmes went on to file a grievance with help from the Burnaby firefighters’ union.

IAFF Local 323 president Jeff Clark told the NOW the union didn’t agree with the termination.

According to the documentary, Elmes eventually got a settlement from the city and “retired with no disciplinary record.”

“I will leave it for the audience to decide what they feel was fair and what they feel wasn’t fair and who deserves what. That’s not my job,” filmmaker Panayioti (Pan) Yannitsos told the NOW in a recent interview.

Yannitsos said he wasn’t going reveal the source of his information about the settlement but maintained none of the Lower Mainland firefighters featured in the film violated any kind of non-disclosure agreement.

“I’m not going to go on the record and talk about where I found certain things, but I believe that fact to be true, and that’s why I disclosed it in the movie.”

The NOW filed a freedom of information request with the city in May 2020 to get access to Elmes’s settlement agreement, but the city first said it couldn’t release it for privacy reasons.

After the NOW appealed that decision to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, the city changed its argument, saying it couldn’t release the documents because of settlement privilege.

Settlement privilege is a legal principle that allows parties trying to settle a dispute to keep the details secret – that includes public bodies, like the city, when they settle disputes with departing employees.

Nine months after the NOW’'s original FOI request, an OIPC investigator confirmed the documents the NOW was requesting from the city are covered by settlement privilege because they were “created while the parties were in a dispute or negotiation” over a settlement.

The number of costly agreements the City of Burnaby has signed with employees who’ve left the city, including senior executives and managers who’ve left with no public explanation, has risen sharply over the last three years, according to its statements of financial information.

The city signed six severance agreements last year and paid out between seven and 20 months’ salary and benefits for each, according to the 2020 SOFI.

That compares to three such agreements in 2019, two in 2018 and one in 2017.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
Email [email protected]