City wants to add 12 defendants now, maybe more later, to police HQ lawsuit

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The City of Winnipeg wants to sue more people and companies connected to the Winnipeg Police Service headquarters construction project, and Mayor Brian Bowman says there could be more to come after that.

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The City of Winnipeg wants to sue more people and companies connected to the Winnipeg Police Service headquarters construction project, and Mayor Brian Bowman says there could be more to come after that.

In a May 4 notice of motion, the city asked Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal for leave in order to amend its statement of claim in the lawsuit to add 12 additional parties.

A hearing in the case, which the city launched in January 2020 against Caspian Construction and dozens of other defendants connected to the over-budget capital project, is scheduled for May 31.

JOE BRYKSA / FREE PRESS FILES The City of Winnipeg wants to sue more people and companies connected to the Winnipeg Police Service headquarters construction project

Joyal has recused himself as trial judge in the case, citing a “spectre” of bias that could hang over his involvement after he ruled in March that Phil Sheegl, the city’s top bureaucrat from May 2011 to October 2013, accepted a bribe in connection with the project.

When asked about the development Wednesday, Bowman repeated his call for a broad public inquiry into a string of city hall controversies during former mayor Sam Katz’s administration from 2004-2014.

“It is one of the single greatest tools to ensure we’re doing everything we can to ensure those who should be held accountable are ultimately held accountable,” Bowman said.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Mayor Brian Bowman repeated his call for a broad public inquiry into a string of city hall controversies from 2004-2014.

“We don’t have the ability to compel testimony and evidence of individuals who do not currently work for the city… or are not currently a part of civil actions, so a public inquiry could facilitate having additional parties provide testimony in a public forum.”

Bowman also said that more parties could be named to the lawsuit in the future — in addition to the 12 new defendants the city is now seeking to add to the case — should new information come to light.

“Where (City of Winnipeg) legal services feels it is appropriate to add parties, then obviously they’re going to do that. In terms of additional parties potentially being added later, I believe all options should be on the table,” he said.

According to court records, the city now alleges that husband and wife John and Mabel Garcea — through a collection of companies, including S&J Construction, referred to as the “Garcea Group” — defrauded the municipality as subcontractors on the project.

The city is also seeking to add, among others, Abesco Ltd. as a defendant on the lawsuit, claiming — like the Garcea Group — it billed the municipal government for work as a subcontractor that was entirely unrelated to the police headquarters.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. Abesco Ltd. and Garcea Group have not yet publicly responded to the allegations.

Also included in the May 4 notice of motion is a request from the city to have the courts compel various defendants and banking institutions to preserve or produce requested records and evidence.

On Wednesday, city chief administrative officer Michael Jack echoed Bowman’s comments that additional parties could be added to the lawsuit.

“The reality is, as this litigation proceeds, we continue to make our way through, literally, millions of documents. So at each stage of these proceedings, we are learning more. We’re getting more information from documents,” Jack said.

“We’re getting more information as we go through the discovery process as well. Even going through the RCMP documents alone has yielded more and more information. This isn’t uncommon as litigation proceeds, for a plaintiff to either add or remove defendants.”

During question period at the Manitoba legislature Wednesday, NDP justice critic Nahanni Fontaine and Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen debated whether a public inquiry should be called.

Fontaine repeatedly asked whether Premier Heather Stefanson would trigger a public inquiry. Goertzen said it would be inappropriate for the province to do so while civil litigation remains before the courts.

—With files from Joyanne Pursaga

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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Updated on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 5:00 PM CDT: Photos added.

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