CBC Investigates

Engineer disciplined over condos with structural issues but public not informed

The regulatory body for professional engineers in Manitoba took away an engineer’s ability to practise structural engineering and reprimanded him, but didn’t inform the public of the discipline at the time.

Disclosure on engineers’ regulatory website follows questions by CBC News

The body that regulates the engineering profession in Manitoba disciplined an engineer in 2014 but didn't inform the public until three years later when the CBC asked questions. (CBC)

The regulatory body for professional engineers in Manitoba took away an engineer's ability to practise structural engineering and reprimanded him, but didn't inform the public of the discipline at the time.

The decision involving George Pratt came after the City of Winnipeg submitted information about Pratt to Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba, said Michael Gregoire, the association's director of professional standards.

City building inspectors determined a condominium project Pratt was involved in didn't comply with the building code. In an order requiring remedial measures, the city's chief housing inspector wrote the condos had "anomalies and weaknesses that could result in structural failure."

The engineering body suspended Pratt as a result of his role in the structural design of the Riverside Glen Development on Augier Avenue in Winnipeg, state documents filed in one of many court actions involving the condo project.

That suspension ended and Pratt is currently a licensed engineer, but is not allowed to practise structural engineering since his penalty took effect in May 2014.

Last month, after the CBC News I-Team asked why the outcome had not been made public, the professional association changed its website listing to include Pratt's restriction against structural engineering.

"I think you make an excellent point by bringing this to our attention," association president Lindsay Melvin said in an interview. "The public does need to know."
Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba president Lindsay Melvin says "the public does need to know" about George Pratt's discipline case. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

"In terms of what we make available, we're following our process from the hearing from what was agreed to be publicized," she said.

"All of our members, this is their livelihood, so anything that is published of that nature, it has to be because it was deemed appropriate to do so from our investigation and our discipline process," Melvin said.

Temporary suspensions of members have been posted on the website and outcomes of discipline cases have at times been announced publicly in the past, she said.

Gregoire said there are two main reasons to publish the outcome of discipline decisions.

"One is to inform our members and our other practitioners about what is acceptable practice, and in other instances, it's sometimes to inform the public about a case where we are concerned about the actions of an individual."

Discretion around publishing

He said the Engineering and Geoscientific Professions Act and bylaws give the association discretion around whether to publish the name of the engineer disciplined and the circumstances at issue.

Pratt's case started as a suspension while Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba's investigation committee looked into the information provided by the city and other sources.

Following the investigation, Pratt was charged and convicted under the act and consented to the reprimand and restriction on his licence effective May 12, 2014, Gregoire said in an email.

The interim suspension was lifted but Pratt's restriction against practising structural engineering will continue until the professional association is satisfied he's qualified to practise in that area, Gregoire said.
Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba director of professional standards Michael Gregoire says the discipline case initially wasn't made public for reasons such as "little risk that Mr. Pratt would repeat the offending behaviour." (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Asked why Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba initially did not inform the public about Pratt's discipline, Gregoire said "In deciding not to publish in this instance, the association took the following factors into consideration:

  • "The association was of the view that there was little risk that Mr. Pratt would repeat the offending behaviour and therefore this was not a matter of needing to warn the public;
  • "Mr. Pratt's restrictions were limited to structural engineering. In that regard, all structural plans must be approved by the authority having jurisdiction — in this case the City of Winnipeg — and the city was informed and is aware of the restriction; and
  • "Mr. Pratt voluntarily accepted the restriction, indicating that he understood the need for the restriction."

Gregoire said there have been no other disciplinary matters involving Pratt.

Pratt declined comment when reached by CBC News.

Several lawsuits filed

The discipline case came to light in lawsuits by condominium owners seeking damages for the costs of fixing their condos. There are several lawsuits before the courts in connection with the condominium project, which consists of 20 bungalow dwellings near the Assiniboine River in west Winnipeg.

In a statement of defence filed in court, Pratt said any assistance he provided in response to the city orders for the condos was "as a result of duress and coercion" on the part of the builder, Legacy Homes, or its directors Ken Pass and Neil Hiebert, or the drafting company hired to generate drawings.

Gregoire said transparency over discipline cases is important to Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba.

"We are always looking to improve our processes," he said.

"We have several mandates. One is to protect the public, but one is to ensure that engineering is performed competently. So we try to balance our transparency with both of those elements."

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