Man’s security clearance revoked after father found to be biker gang member

The Canadian Press
July 28, 2017
By The Canadian Press
TORONTO — A Federal Court judge has ruled that the government was right to revoke an aircraft mechanic’s security clearance because his father was a member of a motorcycle gang.

The ruling found that Mark Del Vecchio, who previously had clearance to work out of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, represented a potential safety risk in part due to his association with his father.

The July 18 decision from Justice Glennys McVeigh upheld a prior decision from the Minister of Transport, who has the power to grant or revoke security clearance for those with access to sensitive airport areas.

McVeigh agreed with the reasoning that Del Vecchio’s clearance was revoked on a number of grounds including association with his father, who is described in the decision as a full-patch member of the Vagabonds motorcycle gang.

The decision says other factors included Del Vecchio’s failure to disclose an alleged domestic incident and inconsistent disclosure of an impaired driving conviction.

McVeigh’s ruling, however, places most emphasis on the relationship with Del Vecchio’s father.

"Mr. Del Vecchio’s association with his father alone is grounds for cancelling his security clearance,” she wrote in her decision. "Personal involvement with organized crime is not required just association.”

Del Vecchio’s lawyer said the children of bikers ought to have the same rights as others to pursue employment.

“It is impossible to choose who your father is going to be,” said Harry Mann. “Assuming that a biker’s son would in all cases be influenced by the father to compromise the security of aviation is patently unreasonable.”

The Federal Court decision said Del Vecchio had been working as a mechanic since 1992 and owns an aviation maintenance business operating out of Pearson.

As part of the job, Del Vecchio was required to have security clearance to work at the airport. The decision said he had successfully applied for and been granted clearance several times over the years.

He first encountered hurdles when he tried to renew his clearance in 2009.

At that time, the decision states, the government became aware of a 1993 conviction for care and control of a vehicle while impaired and a 2007 charge of possession of property obtained by crime.

Del Vecchio submitted documents that satisfied the ministry and his clearance was renewed until 2014, the decision states. There are no details as to the outcome of the 2007 charge.

Del Vecchio successfully reapplied for clearance in 2014, but came to the government’s attention a year later as a result of a record check by the RCMP.

That check turned up the previous impaired driving conviction, an alleged domestic incident in 2007, and the fact that a vehicle registered to Del Vecchio had been seen parked outside the home of a full-patch Vagabonds member, the decision says.

Del Vecchio had an opportunity to respond to the findings of the record check and submitted documents on the issue, but his clearance was formally revoked in July 2016.

He contested the decision on a number of grounds, including the fact that he had disclosed the impaired driving conviction on a previous application and sincerely believed he did not have to do so again.

He also argued that his father’s activities should not have any bearing on his status, since he himself is not a member of the gang and mere association should not be grounds to have clearance revoked.

McVeigh disagreed.

“The Minister does not need to demonstrate that acts of intimidation or threats will happen, rather that they may happen,” she wrote of Del Vecchio’s potential ties to organized crime. "The reason for this standard is due to the forward looking and inherently speculative nature of predicting future risk. This is entirely discretionary and when weighing a security clearance privilege against public safety, the Minister is entitled to err on the side of safety.”

McVeigh ruled in favour of the ministry and Del Vecchio’s clearance remains revoked.

- Michelle McQuigge

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2017

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