City adds 12 defendants to police HQ construction lawsuit
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A Manitoba court has allowed the City of Winnipeg to add more people and companies to its wide-ranging lawsuit over the construction of the Winnipeg Police Service headquarters.
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 to the suit filed in 2020 against more than two dozen entities.
The construction project, which was supposed to cost about $130 million, including the cost of buying the building, ballooned to about $214 million by the time it opened its doors behind schedule in 2015. It was overseen by Caspian Construction.
The suit alleges contractors schemed to inflate costs and overcharge the city.
In a Tuesday hearing in front of Joyal, lawyer Bob Sokalski said the city’s motion didn’t contain factual allegations against his clients G&G Interiors Ltd. and its owner Pietro Giannuzzi Sr.
Instead, he argued, the city’s allegations point to Caspian’s actions.
“Caspian did this, Caspian did that. The only tie in to my clients is that G&G received less money than Caspian provided invoices to the city for,” Sokalski told court.
“There’s no accusation that G&G did anything that was fraudulent, did anything that intentionally fraudulent, made any misrepresentation. There’s no allegation directly against G&G.”
A city-hired forensic accountant found Caspian claimed close to $8 million for G&G invoices, but the payments were less than $6 million, according to a May 4 city affidavit.
Joyal granted the city’s motion and noted another group of defendants, referred to in court filings as the Garcea group, also unsuccessfully opposed the motion to add them to the suit.
“It is important for the court to contextualize those allegations as being part of a circumstantial theory as it touches all defendants, but particularly, and in some cases more obviously… the more minor proposed defendants like those that Mr. Sokalski is representing,” he told court Tuesday.
Joyal said the city has presented direct, factual allegations of fraud against some of the defendants in the suit, and its using those allegations to draw a circumstantial theory against the others.
Joyal also dismissed a motion by two defendants — headquarters construction project consultants Peter Chang and Patrick Dubuc — to have their legal fees paid by the city.
The pair’s lawyer, Ivan Holloway, argued his clients have told the city they don’t have further documents about the construction project, which the city has continued to request.
“I think the city has to be careful in how it treats the defendants. It can’t just be a one size fits all,” Holloway told court.
“With respect to my clients, I believe the record shows that we have been co-operative, engaging, we’ve been providing documents — there’s nothing in the correspondence which says we’re refusing to provide anything.”
Holloway said that the city’s pursual of the motion to produce additional documents amounted to about $7,000 in legal fees.
Michael Finlayson, one of the city’s lawyers, said the city’s motion succeeded in producing 13 additional documents from the pair on June 21, after months of requests.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.