Controversial developer back in action, after prior company's collapse

When a cascade of water swept down the wall inside her home, Nancy Dove was about to learn the man she dealt with on her problem-plagued house had more than a few problems of his own.
Nancy Dove: 'If I had known everything and known how he would have treated us, I would never have gotten in business with Bill Clarke.' ((CBC))

When a cascade of water swept down the wall inside her home, Nancy Dove was about to learn the man she dealt with on her problem-plagued house had more than a few problems of his own.

"Almost this entire wall was a sheet of water coming down," said Dove, gliding her fingers along where damage had been caused by an improperly installed skylight. Water, contractors would tell her, had been collecting in her attic for months before it flowed inside the house.

In 2006, Dove and her husband bought a new house that a company called Harmony Homes was building in a Mount Pearl subdivision, just outside St. John's. For $264,000, Dove expected excellent workmanship.

Dove dealt with Bill Clarke, who she believed was representing Harmony Homes. She did not know at the time that Clarke was a co-owner of Myles-Leger, a development company that folded four years ago, in a collapse that involved scores of unpaid creditors, two disbarred lawyers and an RCMP investigation that continues to this day.

"If I had known everything and known how he would have treated us, I would never have gotten in business with Bill Clarke," Dove said in an interview.

"You sacrifice and you save and find your dream home, and you want to settle down, and this just takes the wind out of your sails," she said. "It's been — since Day 1 — a terrible, terrible ordeal."

Bill Clarke did not return phone calls from CBC News.

It's hard to tell what Clarke's involvement with Harmony Homes precisely is, although a document registered with the Newfoundland and Labrador Registry of Deeds and Companies identifies him as a director. Companies in Newfoundland and Labrador are not required to reveal ownership.

Myriad problems with house

Nonetheless, Clarke was Dove's point of contact. She said she and her husband repeatedly asked Clarke to fix problems, which included a live 220-volt wire in the kitchen and leaks in doors and windows.

Bill Clarke did not return phone calls from CBC News. (CBC)

"He would promise to fix it and apologize, and you'd really, really believe him," Dove said. "And then no one would show up. Then you'd really believe him again, and no one would show up."

For more than a year, Dove was without a new home warranty, because she said Clarke did not pay the $400 fee.

Dove contacted BAE-Newplan, a St. John's development company, because Clarke had given her a business card from that company. The company, though, said Clarke no longer worked there.

"I was shocked," she said. "I was thinking, 'Oh my God, what have we gotten ourselves into?'"

"That's when I was finding out the history of this person and business; I was just really overwhelmed, actually."

The Myles-Leger collapse captivated the St. John's business community. Clarke and his brother, Randy, owned the company, which through several subsidiaries had been involved in a variety of high-profile developments in the capital city area.

$14 million still owed after collapse

Files at Newfoundland Supreme Court are filled with countless pages of documents concerning the aftermath of the collapse. About 125 creditors have been pursuing about $14 million that Myles-Leger owed when it folded. The greatest unsecured creditor was Randy Clarke himself.

There were other repercussions. The Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador disbarred two of its members, William Parsons and Glenn Bursey, in 2005, for their role in handling developments that were effectively propped up on other people's mortgages.

While Myles-Leger was forced into bankruptcy, Bill Clarke personally was not. Sources tell CBC News he is involved in developments that include new condos planned near Water Street in St. John's, properties set for the Airport Heights neighbourhood in St. John's, and a gated-style development off Park Avenue, in Mount Pearl.

Clarke's actual connections are hard to establish. For instance, Ryan Clarke is listed as the sole director of one company, Parkdale Ridge Developments, although mortgage documents reveal that Bill Clarke is a guarantor on a $600,000 mortgage taken out on the Mount Pearl property in question, through a private company at an interest rate of 15 per cent.

Other developers, meanwhile, told CBC News that Clarke has been directly involved in negotiations on various developments in the St. John's area.

The local real estate board revoked Clarke's licence, for his part in the Myles-Leger collapse.

The names of his wife, Tina Clarke, and son, Ryan Clarke, appear on signs of new projects, which include a series of executive homes, condominiums and high-end townhouses by Forest Road.

For some creditors, the return of Clarke is difficult to accept.

"You gotta have a tough skin to stick companies like that and walk away," said Rod Jenkins, a partner in Jenkins Power Sheet Metal, which is still waiting for the $25,000 it was owed when Myles-Leger folded.

'Don't even make eye contact anymore'

Jenkin's partner, Dave Power, said he was comforted when Clarke called him and said the company should not worry.

"I'd like to walk up to him — I saw him at Kent's one day, actually — and just say, in the crowd, 'How about paying me my 21,000 bucks?'" Power told CBC News.

Jenkins and Power said their company is thriving, despite having an outstanding debt still on the books. What galls them is that Clarke is not only back in business, but working from an office in a lumber company just down the road from their shop in the Goulds area of St. John's.

"Now I see him frequently," Power said. "I don't even make eye contact with him anymore."

The Myles-Leger collapse was followed by the establishment of a controversial $50 fee that goes to the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, which was on the hook for costs from the actions of the company's lawyers.

Peter Ringrose, executive director of the society, said the organization had been planning such a measure even before the company's collapse.

Meanwhile, the law society has yet to turn over any records of its own investigation into the matter to the RCMP, which opened a criminal investigation several years ago into the Myles-Leger cases.

"There are issues of confidentiality there, and we have to be very careful what we do in passing information to the police," Ringrose said.

"But it's certainly under consideration for us, and will be determined soon what level of co-operation we can offer."

Nancy Dove sued Harmony Homes and Clarke for the problems she encountered with her home in Mount Pearl. When Dove got her day in court in St. John's last month, Clarke did not show up. Instead, a lawyer appeared, offering an out-of-court settlement.