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Brampton seeks dismissal of developer’s lawsuit

$28M lawsuit was filed in 2011 by developer shut out of bidding on a huge downtown project.
Feb. 16, 2016
By San Grewal

The City of Brampton has filed a motion asking the courts to dismiss a $28.5-million lawsuit against the city that alleges there was staff misconduct in the handling of a $500-million downtown development deal.

Two long-time councillors who are critical of the deal wonder why it took nearly five years to file a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the lawsuit, brought in 2011 by a developer who had been disqualified from bidding on the job.

“Why wasn’t this action taken five years ago? If we had a strong case, why did we waste five years of time, distraction and money? I think the taxpayers deserve some answers,” said Councillor John Sprovieri. He and Councillor Elaine Moore have been the two loudest critics of the original deal, which was later dramatically scaled back to a city hall expansion costing $205 million.

Developer Inzola Group filed a statement of claim in Superior Court in July 2011, alleging it had been unfairly disqualified and that senior staff and former mayor Susan Fennell had been biased in favour of the eventual builder, Dominus Construction. There are no allegations against Dominus in the lawsuit, and the company has stated it followed all the rules of the bidding process.

The city filed a statement of defence in November 2011, denying all the allegations and characterizing the legal action as an attempt at “tarring” Fennell’s reputation. A motion for summary judgment - a move intended to avoid lengthy and costly litigation if a swift decision is possible — could have been filed any time after that.

Instead, the court has heard a series of pre-trial motions by Inzola to obtain thousands of documents, with the city challenging their release. In November 2013 the court ordered some documents released, and more than 11,000 were disclosed in early 2014. More were ordered released late last year. Meanwhile, the court has heard pre-trial testimony from both sides during the discovery process.

The city’s lawyers, Steven Stieber and Elizabeth Bowker, said it was proper protocol to wait until now to file the dismissal motion. “It is typical and appropriate to bring a motion for summary judgment once examinations for discovery have been completed and the evidence is available to the parties,” they wrote in an email Tuesday.

Inzola principal John Cutruzzola said he will challenge the city’s dismissal motion. “We are looking forward to the beginning of the trial so the taxpayers of Brampton can find out what actually happened,” he said. “This motion is trying to prevent that.”

Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey declined to comment on the city’s most recent move because the matter is “before the courts.”

The motion for dismissal repeats much of what was set out by the city in its statement of defence: that Inzola was disqualified fairly, because Cutruzzola violated the “communications protocol” of the bidding rules when he attempted to present his case to council. Cutruzzola alleges in his statement of claim that he wanted to make that presentation, before his disqualification, to get clarification on a secrecy agreement that he was asked to sign after submitting his bid.

“It has been such a dark cloud over the city,” Moore said of the ongoing lawsuit. “It has set the city so far behind, with allegations involving some of our most senior staff. We have been paralyzed. And only now, after five years, have the lawyers decided to try getting the whole thing dismissed.”