The failure of a multimillion-dollar water treatment plant lawsuit has led Mayor Brian Bowman's inner circle to place Winnipeg's legal department under a microscope.
City council's executive policy committee voted Wednesday to take a trio of actions in the wake of a failed city effort to recover up to $20 million from 10 contractors responsible for the design and construction of the Winnipeg Water Treatment Plant, which was completed in 2009 at a cost of $300 million.
The lawsuit died this summer after a city lawyer missed a six-year deadline to file a statement of claim, city chief administrative officer Doug McNeil revealed in September. He said he dismissed a veteran city lawyer as a result.
- Water flows from $300M plant
- Bombshell lawsuit shocks Winnipeg councillors
- Winnipeg lawsuit over water treatment plant dries up after lawyer misses deadline
Since the dismissal, four city councillors have demanded more accountability from the city.
On Wednesday, EPC approved a motion that attempted to encompass the separate efforts of councillors Janice Lukes (South Winnipeg-St. Norbert), Russ Wyatt (Transcona), John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) and Scott Gillingham (St. James-Brooklands-Weston).
The committee voted to ask McNeil to produce a report that includes a chronology of events leading up to the failure of the lawsuit. It also called for the city auditor to review the actions of the legal services department and called for the city to retain outside legal council to review the court proceedings over the water-treatment lawsuit in an effort to see whether money could be recovered.
- Mayor calls error that sank Winnipeg's water-treatment lawsuit 'inexcusable'
- Decision to fire lawyer over botched city lawsuit fails to placate councillors
"If we could do our job better by having either internal or external reviews of our processes, then I absolutely welcome that because I want the City of Winnipeg to be an excellent organization," McNeil told reporters after the meeting.
The CAO said he intends to discuss the aftermath of the failed lawsuit with legal services director Krista Boryskavich once she returns from a holiday in Europe.
"This was scheduled long before. The timing is unfortunate. She took a three-week holiday and we'd like to respect her privacy around that," McNeil said.
Before EPC voted, former city councillor Garth Steek slammed the mayor and the city for its secrecy regarding the lawsuit, while Lukes accused Bowman of keeping councillors in the dark and stated she has no confidence in McNeil.
"This whole fiasco is ridiculous," Lukes said.
The CAO said he took exception to those comments, insisting city officials could not comment on the lawsuit while it was before the courts.