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City building inspector embroiled in blueprint scandal retires

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A City of Winnipeg building inspector accused of selling falsified blueprints has decided to retire.

This morning, city property director Barry Thorgrimson told council's property committee that Hollywood Homes got an engineer to certify the blueprints for three city homes.

The city had previously ordered Hollywood Homes to obtain a new building permit for all three properties or demolish all construction after officials discovered submitted drawings were deliberately altered to indicate they were approved by an engineer.

Thorgrimson said the engineer whose seal was on the blueprints has re-sealed the drawings, and the city order is now cancelled.

The news came as a relief to homeowers such as Arnel Mercado, who worried their properties could be demolished due to the problems with the original building permits.

Hollywood Homes Inc. owner Dave Haner alleged he purchased the blueprints with a false engineering seal from a city building inspector.

City of Winnipeg building inspector Sig Steinhilber does freelance design work for InterPro Building Design Service, a local company registered to his wife.

Thorgrimson said the problem with the documents was missed when they were submitted, and it was the building inspector who brought it to the department's attention. He said the inspector no longer works for the City of Winnipeg, and the city's investigation is now closed.

Thorgrimson said it's not up to the city to determine who forged the seal, and Manitoba's Association of Professional Engineers has launched an investigation into the matter.

Steinhilber said he decided to retire and is starting a new chapter in his life.

"The people who know me know I'm not the person I'm made out to be in the news," he said on Tuesday.

Sidney Soronow, Haner's lawyer, said the homeowners and public can now feel comfortable and have confidence in Hollywood Homes. He said it's unfortunate that the company's reputation was damaged by the ordeal.

"It has been dragged through the mud substantially and in my view, unfairly," he said.

Engineer Les Frovitch said he initially sealed the drawings for InterPro Building Design Service in 2009. Frovitch said the blueprints were reused and the dates were changed for several projects.

Frovitch said Hollywood Homes recently approached him to re-certify the drawings and he agreed to help the affected property owners. Frovitch has spoken with Manitoba's Association of Professional Engineers to aid in their investigation to determine who forged his seal.

Engineering regulators say an individual found guilty of falsifying an engineer's seal could be charged with fraud or fined up to $20,000.

"The biggest concern is the liability and insurance issues," Frovitch said. "If we're not aware of the project and there's a problem with it in the future we're being held responsible for something we had no knowledge of."

History

Updated on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 10:55 AM CDT: Writethru.

11:18 AM: Updates with quotes from Sig Steinhilber.

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