A TTC bus driver is suing the transit agency for more than $3 million after he was accused of stealing money from a lost wallet and then fired, only to be reinstated when a judge dismissed the criminal charges against him months later.
According to a report published in the Toronto Star, TTC driver Kevin Higgins was operating the 191C Highway 27 Rocket in January, 2018 when a passenger handed him a wallet that he had found on a seat.
The newspaper said that Higgins continued on his route but later handed the wallet over to a supervisor when he got back to Kipling Station.
The wallet was empty at the time but when its owner was reached, he told the TTC that $3,000 was missing.
The TTC, in turn, launched its own internal investigation and eventually fired Higgins and notified police about the incident.
Higgins was charged with theft under $5,000 but those charges were later dismissed by a judge.
At that point the TTC reinstated Higgins.
In a statement provided to CP24 on Tuesday, a representative for the union that represents TTC workers said that the incident “is a prime example of how the TTC often mistreats its employees.”
“After being falsely accused of theft of money allegedly in a passenger’s wallet left on the member’s bus, the TTC fired him and he was criminally charged after the TTC provided information to the police. The member was acquitted of the criminal charges because there was considerable doubt as to whether the money alleged to be in the wallet was ever there. This considerable doubt should have been apparent to the TTC,” ATU Local 113 President Carlos Santos said.
The TTC’s statement of defence, obtained by the Star, states that a review of video footage from the bus showed that the passenger that found the wallet didn’t remove anything from it before handing it to Higgins.
The investigator obtained by the agency also deemed the passenger’s claim that there was thousands of dollars inside the wallet “credible,” though it is not clear how they arrived at that conclusion.
In a statement provided to CP24 on Tuesday, TTC spokesperson Stuart Green defended the transit agency’s handling of the matter, noting that it only took disciplinary action “following a thorough and good faith investigation” conducted by an independent TTC investigator.
Santos, however, said that the incident “is yet another example of how the TTC needs to change its culture and improve its approach to employees.”
That, he said, is especially true when it comes to the way the TTC responded after Higgin’s acquittal, when it reinstated him and cleared his disciplinary record but went to arbitration over how much back pay he was owed.
“If the matter had been properly investigated by the TTC, and dealt with appropriately after the acquittal, none of this would have happened and the member would have been spared the ordeal,” Santos said. “The TTC would also have been spared the cost of criminal defence fees, compensation and arbitration costs.”
The TTC has confirmed that Higgins is seeking $3.25 million in damages.