News / Toronto

Brampton performs late u-turn and abandons its bid to have huge lawsuit dismissed

City had filed dismissal motion in February to end a $28.5M, five-year legal battle. The suit was filed against the city by developer who built city hall.

Brampton has abandoned its bid to have a $28.5 million lawsuit filed by a developer who built city hall dismissed before a trial.

ROB BEINTEMA/TORONTO STAR

Brampton has abandoned its bid to have a $28.5 million lawsuit filed by a developer who built city hall dismissed before a trial.

After filing a dismissal motion in February to end a five-year legal battle, Brampton has suddenly abandoned its bid to have a $28.5 million lawsuit dismissed before a trial.

The suit was filed against the city by the developer who built city hall.

When the city launched its motion the plaintiff promptly filed 19,000 pages of documents to fight it and also deposed 10 witnesses, including former mayor Susan Fennell. Now, as the case appears to be finally heading toward a trial, documents recently filed by the plaintiff to counter the dismissal attempt have raised questions about the role of senior staff and Fennell in a $500 million downtown development deal.

Two councillors who have been fierce critics of the deal since it was approved in 2011, now want to know who is going to pay for the city’s abandoned strategy and why the five-year-old lawsuit keeps being dragged on, potentially costing Brampton taxpayers millions of dollars in legal costs if the city loses the case.

“The abandoning of the motion doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Councillor John Sprovieri, after Torstar obtained the “Notice of Abandonment” from the court Monday. (It was filed last week.) “I hope at the end of the day the taxpayers of Brampton aren’t going to be stuck with a big bill for the cancelled motion.”

“I hope this wasn’t a costly, time-consuming stalling tactic,” Councillor Elaine Moore said of the cancelled motion. “Council had previously learned that there had been other delays because of the city’s actions.”

Inzola has had to file its own motions for the lawsuit to have the court order the City of Brampton to release thousands of documents the plaintiff has sought, which the city was not releasing. This has caused delays in the case.

After the city filed its motion to dismiss the suit in February, the plaintiff, a local builder disqualified from bidding on one of the largest projects in Brampton’s history, was allowed to file documents with the court for the motion.

Inzola Group alleges in its lawsuit that it was unfairly disqualified from the bidding because senior staff and Fennell were biased against the company, specifically its principal John Cutruzzola, and that they were biased in favour of the winning bidder, Dominus Construction. The city denies all of the lawsuit’s allegations. There are no allegations against Dominus, which has stated it followed all rules of the bidding process.

Asked why the city suddenly cancelled its motion to dismiss, who will cover the costs and if the court’s time is being wasted — hearings for the now cancelled motion had been set for January — city spokesperson Natalie Stogdill stated Monday that, “The city is moving as quickly as possible towards trial where all of the relevant evidence will be considered by the court. As such it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

It’s unclear who will have to pay for the costs of the cancelled motion involving 19,000 pages of documents recently filed by the plaintiff to fight the dismissal motion, 10 depositions, legal reporters who had to record the testimony and two teams of lawyers arguing the case.

The claims against the city and the testimony of those deposed that have been filed by Inzola with the court for the city’s own cancelled motion, can now be used by the plaintiff during the trial.

The documents include:

  • Testimony from Fennell, who answered “No” when asked by Inzola’s lawyers during her deposition if she “had met or had any discussions with (two brothers directly tied to the winning bid group) in writing, in person, via telephone, prior to (the final council approval of the deal on Aug. 10, 2011)”. Emails from Fennell included in the filings with court suggest she had communicated with one brother and attempted to arrange meetings with the other prior to that date.
  • Testimony from former Brampton chief administrative officer John Corbett, who was a member of the bid selection committee when he was the commissioner of planning and development. He was asked by Inzola’s lawyer if “It was certainly understood that the mayor’s agenda included the approval of Dominus as the preferred respondent, correct?” Corbett replied, “I would agree with that statement.” In response, Fennell’s lawyer stated: “Ms. Fennell categorically rejects this unsubstantiated opinion expressed by Mr. Corbett.”
  • A 2011 agreement signed by Fennell detailing an arrangement for the city to pay $480,000 to Dominus so it could secure a parcel of land needed for its bid which it was to secure on its own. Councillors did not find out about the arrangement until 2014 through the lawsuit and Fennell stated to the court, in response to questions asked by Inzola during the discovery process, that she found out at the same time. When asked by Torstar about the agreement she signed in 2011, which was filed with the court after her statement, Fennell’s lawyer said she “does not recall reviewing” the agreement she had signed in 2011.
  • The work of an expert hired to investigate financial decisions made by senior Brampton staff in the half billion-dollar deal, raising concerns about the high cost and other issues, including some that were never shared with council.

Resident Chris Bejnar, a spokesperson for the group Citizens For a Better Brampton, said his group is “astonished” by the city’s latest move after learning of it from Torstar News.

“After expending significant energy and legal cost we are astonished to learn that the city has decided to abandon its motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Given the revelations that have dribbled out in the press over many months, we are not surprised.”

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