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HomeBusinessCourt orders Metro Vancouver boss to be cross-examined over sewage plant document leak

Court orders Metro Vancouver boss to be cross-examined over sewage plant document leak

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Construction site signs from North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant (Mackin)

Bob Mackin

The B.C. Supreme Court has ruled that Metro Vancouver’s top bureaucrat must be cross-examined over statements he swore about the leaked report that recommended firing the builder of a North Vancouver sewage plant. 

In court filings last December, Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District (GVSDD) said that Acciona Wastewater Solutions LP had learned that one of its employees, Anika Calder, took photographs of a confidential board report and shared it with at least four colleagues. Calder was visiting her father, Coquitlam city manager Peter Steblin, who used GVSDD chair and Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart’s log-in credentials to access the report. 

In his May 9 decision, published June 5, Master Terry Vos granted Acciona’s application to question Commissioner Jerry Dobrovolny under oath about his December 2022 and March 2023 affidavits. 

The confidential Jan. 17, 2022 report summarized facts and legal advice about Acciona’s alleged contract breaches and sought the board’s closed-door approval on Jan. 20, 2022 to end the contract, the same day Calder visited Steblin, who retired a year later.

“There is no dispute that the confidential closed meeting report was disclosed to the GVSDD board in confidence, and that it was misused by Ms. Calder when she photographed portions of the report on Mr. Steblin’s computer and provided it to Acciona,” Vos wrote in his decision.

On Jan. 21, 2022, when GVSDD issued the termination notice, Acciona became aware that an employee had received a forwarded email with photographs of the document attached. 

“Acciona recognized that the way in which the photographed document was obtained was unusual,” Vos wrote. “Acciona took steps to prevent further transmission of the photographed document and appointed a member of its in-house legal team to gather and securely store all emails or messages transmitting the photographed document.”

Just over two months later, Acciona sued GVSDD for more than $250 million. GVSDD countersued in June 2022, claiming more than $500 million in damages, costs and expenses. The case has yet to be scheduled for trial.

Last December, GVSDD applied for an injunction to ban Acciona from copying or sharing the confidential information and included the first affidavit by Dobrovolny. 

Law Courts Vancouver (Joe Mabel)

According to a letter from Stewart’s lawyer in January of this year to Acciona and GVSDD, Stewart reviewed materials in the GVSDD application and “became concerned that the materials do not accurately set out certain key events in this matter.” 

In an appendix to his letter, Stewart indicated that he met June 3, 2022 with Dobrovolny who showed him the photographs of his computer screen and told him the source was Steblin’s daughter Calder. The appendix also said that Dobrovolny was aware it was common practice for directors to share log-in credentials with senior staff at their municipal halls. Stewart confirmed he followed this practice and shared credentials with Steblin. He also mentioned an occasion in 2018 when GVSDD assisted Coquitlam administrative staff having difficulty accessing the web portal using Stewart’s log-in credentials. 

“GVSDD was fully aware that Mayor Stewart’s log-in credentials had been shared with City of Coquitlam staff, consistent with the aforementioned practice,” said the Stewart appendix.

Dobrovolny swore a second affidavit in March of this year, stating some of Stewart’s letter needed clarification.

Acciona’s March application said it wants to ask Dobrovolny about the breadth of circulation of the confidential report, the ease with which individuals other than board members could access the report and the extent that GVSDD “may have placed misleading affidavit evidence before the court when it initially relied on Mr. Dobrovolny’s Dec. 15, 2022 affidavit.”

GVSDD agreed in April 2017 for Acciona to build the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant. Less than five years later, GVSDD fired Acciona. 

In March, Metro Vancouver’s liquid waste committee heard that it will cost $85 million more for PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc. to fix Acciona’s errors, but the current budget could absorb the additional cost. 

The $1.058 billion project was supposed to cost around half that and be ready in 2020. The Metro Vancouver website now says it will be operational in 2024.

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