Who is the man at centre of Salvation Army missing toys scandal?
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The 51-year-old bespectacled man at the centre of the Salvation Army scandal involving the alleged theft of $2 million worth of toys is known by friends and colleagues as a consummate professional and part-time teacher with a love of motorcycles.
David Rennie, former executive director of the Salvation Army’s Railside Rd. warehouse, shares a 29th floor penthouse apartment near Yonge and Eglinton with his common-law spouse, Diane Wang, a certified accountant and financial controller with the Royal Ontario Museum. Rennie has degrees in both commerce and marketing, and 24 years of experience in growth, mergers and acquisitions, according to court documents.
Known to participate in charity motorcycle rides, Rennie owns a 2009 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic. He taught courses in food and beverage management part time at Seneca College until 2010, when he assumed the role of executive director following a contract as a consultant for the Salvation Army.
On Monday, Rennie was fired from the position after a months-long internal audit of the Railside Rd. warehouse revealed that about 100,000 toys, along with other donated goods, had gone missing over a period of two years.
No charges have been filed against him and police would not confirm if he is a person of interest.
In general, the vetting process for Salvation Army employees includes reference and criminal checks, but not bankruptcy checks. Rennie declared bankruptcy in 2001, with a debt of more than $280,000 owing for a business venture.
And he is still embroiled in a lawsuit with Milton Parissis, his partner in the original consulting contract that brought him to the Salvation Army.
He and Milton Parissis were hired as consultants at the Railside Rd. facility in April 2008 under the name Parissis Partners Inc. The pair had worked together once previously, facilitating the sale of Malivoire Wines, a Beamsville, Ont., winery.
Rennie launched the suit in 2010, claiming Parissis failed to provide him with adequate compensation for the project. Parissis, in his statement of defence, alleges Rennie didn’t perform an adequate amount of work.
The statement of defence claims Rennie replaced Parissis in the leadership role in the Salvation Army contract in an attempt to maintain the contract in the face of upset over cost-cutting measures implemented by the consultants.
Parissis served as executive director of the warehouse following the fire, until Rennie took over in 2010.
The suit is ongoing.
Both Rennie and Parissis refused to comment for this story. The Star attempted to reach Rennie by phone and at his door on several occasions, as well as by email.
The consultants were first brought on to look at the “entire operation” of the Railside Rd. warehouse — “everything from procedures, procurement, logistics, our dispatch — ensuring that we were at maximum use of our vehicles. Looking at our entire operation for us,” said Salvation Army Major John Murray.
In May 2008, a blaze tore through the Railside Rd. location, destroying all of the stock. The charity kept the two men on to oversee the rebuilding of the warehouse from the ground up.
“After the fire it made good sense for them to continue,” Murray said of the consultants. “Because obviously we had to do significant renovations there. They’re practitioners in logistics and corporate management, certainly in the area of warehouse logistics distribution and management.”
Former colleagues from Seneca College describe Rennie in glowing terms.
“He was very helpful with me — he was my mentor for the course and I respected him for helping me out,” said Lino Simonassi, who taught a course with Rennie. “I can only make complimentary comments about his character.”
Other part-time instructors remembered Rennie briefly from a shared office but had little direct contact with him.
“I found him forthcoming … with ideas and willingness to share,” said Merlin Charles. “Stuff related to relationships with students and how best to manage classrooms, and that kind of thing.”
Alain Londes, a part-time teacher at the same time, said he was surprised to see his former colleague’s face in the news this week. “I do remember him teaching … actually I found it odd that he would be teaching and, next thing I read, he’s making $100,000 a year,” he said.
Rennie earned $111,215 in 2011, according to the Sunshine List, a government database of public and charitable-sector employees who make more than $100,000 per year.
Jody Steinhauer, president of the Bargains Group, said she last talked to Rennie in the summer, when they were organizing Toy Mountain before he went on vacation.
“He asked to speak to us after hours, because he wanted to make sure it was looked after, which was really conscientious,” said Steinhauer, whose company sells goods such as toys.
When she worked with him, he was always very professional. She knew little about his personal life, other than his interest in travel and motorcycles.
“It’s unfortunate, it’s really a horrible situation and I hope … that something horrible has happened and that it had nothing to do with David and he’s unfortunately maybe taking the fall. We all know that can happen,” she said. “He was a nice guy.”
A 2010 posting online, attributed to Rennie, talks about attending an annual charity motorcycle ride and bringing a 2002 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic.
Bruce Lohnes, once the national president of The Salvation Riders Motorcycle Club, thanked him online for his attendance, but declined to comment when reached by phone this week.
Ron Farr, pastor of The Warehouse Mission, another organ of the Salvation Army, is also listed as a contact for the club and declined to comment. “We really don’t know him that well, really just remotely,” Farr said, adding he knew he was involved in rides.
The Toronto Police investigation into the situation at Salvation Army’s Railside Rd. warehouse continues, as does a forensic audit by firm KPMG. It’s still not known what happened to the 100,000 toys that went missing.
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