Ledcor VP resigns after 'inappropriate touching' court decision

A senior Ledcor executive has resigned from the construction giant in the wake of a B.C. Supreme Court judge's finding that she believed he had inappropriately touched a Cactus Club server.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge found Dwight Brissette inappropriately touched Cactus Club server in 2013

A claim that a client inappropriately touched a server at the Coal Harbour Cactus Club Cafe has resulted in the resignation of a senior Ledcor executive.

A senior Ledcor executive has resigned from the construction giant in the wake of a B.C. Supreme Court judge's finding that she believed he "inappropriately touched" a Cactus Club server and called her "Kitty Kat."

The allegations became public on the weekend after the publication of Justice Miriam Gropper's decision to dismiss the defamation suit Dwight Brissette brought against the restaurant chain and server Katrina Coley.

Brissette was Ledcor's senior vice-president of health and safety. Ledcor is a massive construction company with projects all over North America, ranging from mining to communications to transportation.

Company spokesman David Hoff sent an email to CBC News Monday afternoon. 

"In response to recent events, Ledcor's senior executives and Dwight Brissette, SVP of health and safety met today to discuss Ledcor's employee code of conduct and senior executive expectations," Hoff wrote.

"As a result, Mr. Brissette has tendered his resignation, effective immediately."

Hoff did not return a phone call placed to him Monday.

Denies any wrongdoing

Brissette has vowed to appeal Gropper's decision. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The incident allegedly occurred after a night of drinks and food on an outdoor patio at the Cactus Club's Coal Harbour location in Vancouver in June 2013.

According to the judgment, Coley told a manager Brissette touched "the lower part of the side of her butt for about a second" while she was standing next to him at one point in the evening.

She claimed he also called her 'Kitty-Kat".

Those allegations were later relayed to Brissette's party — which included other Ledcor executives — by a manager who explained why they were being cut off from ordering more drinks. ​

Brissette denied the allegations and sued, claiming his reputation was on the line. But Gropper dismissed his claim after a summary trial.

"I find that the defence of justification has been proven," she wrote.

"I also find that Mr. Brissette and others in his party called Ms. Coley 'Kitty-Kat' throughout the evening and that made her uncomfortable although as she says, she did not consider it to be inappropriate, 'until the night transpired and other events happened.'"

According to the decision, Brissette said he drank five nine-ounce glasses of wine and one or two two-ounce shooters of tequila over the course of five hours on the night in question.

The judge found his consumption of alcohol impinged on his reliability.

Post-touching behaviour

In her decision, Gropper noted that Brissette argued that Coley did not act like someone who had been "inappropriately touched" in the moments after the alleged incident.

"He says that someone who has allegedly been touched would not linger near the perpetrator any longer than absolutely necessary if such touching had in fact occurred," the judge wrote.

"Mr. Brisette says that the video evidence shows Ms. Coley laughing and joking with the other patrons, touching the shoulders of one of the male patrons at the table from behind, joking and bantering with Mr. Brissette before leaving the patio at 9:58 p.m."

The judge forcefully rejected that argument.

"It has been 34 years since the law has reflected that the credibility of the complainant cannot be assessed by her post-event conduct. Yet Mr. Brissette's position is replete with references to what Ms. Coley did or did not do after he touched her on the back and buttocks," Gropper wrote.

"I explicitly reject those assertions as in any way determinative of what occurred between Mr. Brissette and Ms. Coley."

Rumours and gossip

In an affidavit filed as part of the proceedings, Brissette said he has been employed by Ledcor since October 1994.

He admitted to making "one rude statement" to a female employee of the Cactus Club, but said "rudeness is one thing; sexual misconduct involving inappropriate touching is an entirely different matter."

He said he did not slur his speech and was not inebriated or intoxicated. He also said he was not speaking loudly, shouting or yelling.

Brissette did admit to saying to a male manager: "I'm not going to take this standing down. You're not going to f--k with Ledcor like this."

In his affidavit, Brissette said he was concerned rumours and gossip relating to the allegations might damage his reputation.

Gropper reached her decision after a summary trial, which means she relied on affidavits and exhibits as opposed to live testimony from witnesses to come to a decision. Brissette's lawyers wanted a full trial.