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Forged-blueprints drama takes a new turn

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THERE’S a new twist in the case of a homebuilder who accused a City of Winnipeg building inspector of selling forged blueprints — the builder was involved in a previous legal dispute with the inspector’s son.

Douglas Steinhilber filed a statement of claim in Court of Queen’s Bench against Hollywood Homes in September 2011 over problems with a home’s construction.

In an affidavit, Steinhilber, who is the building inspector’s son, alleged he signed a contract with Hollywood Homes in 2008 to build a house on Perth Avenue for $100,000 that was to be completed in August 2010.

The work was delayed until June 2011, and Steinhilber’s affidavit said he had to pay to remove a builder’s lien, pay for damage to a neighbour’s property from stucco work, remove mud from the yard and pay to obtain a zoning permit since "the dwelling constructed by the respondent (Hollywood Homes) does not comply with zoning requirements." Court documents reveal Steinhilber instructed his lawyer to deduct the cost of these defects from the final payment to Hollywood Homes.

Dan Steinhilber, who spoke on behalf of his brother, Douglas, said his brother terminated the contract with Hollywood Homes because the project was not moving forward.

"The family would really like to move on from that and let that be history," he said Wednesday.

The revelations come amid a city investigation into forged engineering blueprints on several Winnipeg homes.

A recent report revealed the city revoked three of Hollywood Homes’ building permits for properties on Pritchard Avenue, Bowman Avenue and Chevrier Boulevard after officials discovered submitted drawings were deliberately altered to indicate they were approved by an engineer.

The city has ordered Hollywood Homes to obtain a new building permit for all three properties, or alternatively, obtain a permit to demolish all construction. If Hollywood Homes fails to comply, the city will bring the properties into compliance, which may include demolishing the buildings. Families currently occupy two of the properties.

Hollywood Homes owner Dave Haner alleged he purchased the blueprints with a false engineering seal from a city building inspector. The allegations have not been proven but have sparked an internal city investigation.

City of Winnipeg building inspector Sig Steinhilber does freelance design work for InterPro Building Design Service, a local company registered to his wife. He declined to speak with the Free Press Wednesday.

Dan Steinhilber said his brother, Douglas, is a draftsman and has been producing all the drawings for InterPro for the last six or seven years. He said his father, Sig, only works for the company as a consultant.

Dan Steinhilber said Douglas Steinhilber drew the original blueprint Hollywood Homes purchased from InterPro for a specific project at a specific address with a valid engineer’s seal.

City spokesman Steve West said the city is investigating concerns about building-code compliance for one or more of the occupied properties, allegations regarding misuse of professional engineering seals and potential conflict-of-interest of a city employee, according to a statement.

West said the city will not discuss these issues to ensure all matters are properly and thoroughly considered.

"While the City of Winnipeg is looking into all three issues, our first priority continues to be to work with property owners and other stakeholders to ensure the properties involved are compliant with the building code and all other lifesafety requirements," West said in a statement.

Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) said Winnipeg should clarify its code of conduct and require all employees who deal with the public interest to disclose any outside businesses every year.

Currently, the city’s code of conduct requires employees to disclose a perceived or potential conflict of interest in writing to their department head.

"What should be very clear is you or your direct family cannot be involved in direct undertakings related to your job," Eadie said.

Court documents show Hollywood Homes was sued in small-claims court four times in 2012 and taken to court twice by Employment Standards over unpaid wages in 2010.

 jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

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