Manager of collapsed Ontario mall admits lying to tenants
Elliot Lake manager tells inquiry she felt 'terrible ... I was lying' about $1M in planned repairs
The inquiry into the deadly collapse of the roof at Algo Centre mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., has heard about altered documents and questionable repairs to the structure in the years leading up to the June 2012 tragedy.
A former mall manager testified Wednesday she was asked to fake financial information and lie to mall tenants about plans to fix the roof, which had a history of leaking problems.
When Henrieth Laroue was hired to be an administrative assistant at the mall in 2007, the last thing she expected was to be tasked with the mall manager duties.
But that’s exactly what happened after the mall manager was fired.
Laroue told the inquiry that mall owner Bob Nazarian suddenly gave her the title of manager.
"I was very shocked," she said. "I said to him, ‘No, I don't know anything about fixing that roof’."
Laroue said Nazarian told her not to worry, and that he had engineering experience and knew how to fix it.
The roof leaked so badly that by 2008, Laroue recalled purchasing every bucket from the Dollarama store to catch the water.
'I told him it was illegal'
Tenants were demanding answers from the new mall manager.
Laroue said Nazarian instructed her to tell them $1 million was being spent to fix the roof.
She admitted she did so — even though she didn't believe it was true, saying she felt "terrible ... I was lying."
Laroue also told the inquiry Nazarian asked her to alter documents that showed the amount of rent the mall was collecting.
"I believe I told him it was illegal," she said, adding that she didn't know what the documents were used for.
The inquiry has heard during earlier testimony that, around the same time period, Nazarian was attempted to obtain more financing to pay for roof repairs.
Nazarian will have the chance to respond to what the inquiry has heard when he appears in July.
The inquiry was established in July 2012 by the Ontario government to report on events surrounding the mall roof's collapse, and the deaths of Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo, as well as the injuries to others and the emergency management and response.
Hearings began March 4 and are expected to conclude with testimony from former premier Dalton McGuinty on Sept 12.
Elliot Lake inquiry schedule of testimony:
|Witness||Dates (subject to change)|
|PART ONE - COLLAPSE|
|Fred Bauthus (second period), Former Chief Administrative Officer, City of Elliot Lake * Will only speak to the second period he acted as CAO, namely September 4, 2007 to June 8, 2010||May 16 and 21 (and 22 if necessary), 2013|
|Henrieth Laroue (McLeery), Former Mall Manager, Eastwood Mall||May 22 (and 23 if necessary), 2013 ** We will start Ms. Laroue's testimony as soon as the testimony of Mr. Bauthus is completed.|
|Al Collett, Councillor, City of Elliot Lake||May 23, 2013 ** We will start Mr. Collett's testimony on May 22 if we are done with Ms. Laroue before the end of the day on May 22.|
|Bruce Ewald, Chief Building Official, City of Elliot Lake||May 24, 2013|
|Judy McCulloch, Manager, Customer Service, Scotiabank||May 27, 2013|
|Don Denley, Former City of Elliot Lake Councillor||May 27, 2013|
|Sonia Saari, Structural Engineer, Corselab||May 28, 2013|
|Tom Turner, Former Mall Manager, Eastwood Mall||May 28, 2013|
|Panel: Hassan Saffarini, P. Eng - NORR Chris Hughes, Architect - NORR Pouria Ghods, P. Eng - Giatec Scientific Aaron Dinovitzer, P. Eng - BMT Fleet Technology||May 29 and 30, 2013|
|Rhonda Lendt (Bear), Former Mall Manager, Eastwood Mall||June 4, 2013|
|Philip Sarvinis, Engineer, Read Jones Christofferson, retained by Eastwood Mall||June 5, 2013|
|Ralph Regan, Former Inspector, Ministry of Labour||June 5, 2013|
|Tracy Patrick, Former Assistant to Robert Wood and Gregory Saunders, M.R. Wright||June 6, 2013|
|Gregory Saunders, Engineer, M.R. Wright||June 6, 2013|
|Robert Woods, M.R. Wright||June 7 and 10, 2013|
|Antoine-René Fabris, Lawyer, retained by Eastwood Mall||June 11, 2013 ** We will start Mr. Fabris' testimony on June 10 if we are done with Mr. Wood before the end of the day on June 10.|
|Rob DeBortoli, Chief Administrative Officer, City of Elliot Lake||June 12, 2013|
|Lesley Sprague, City Clerk||June 13, 2013|
|Ed Hudson, Former Inspector, Ministry of Labour||June 13, 2013|
|Majid Milani-Nia or Jaime M. Hass, Pinchin||June 14, 2013|
|Ron McCowan, McCowan and Associates, considered purchase of Mall||June 14, 2013|
|Rick Hamilton, Mayor, City of Elliot Lake||July 8, 2013|
|Roger Jeffries, Engineer, Ministry of Labour||July 9, 2013|
|Robert Racko, Developer||July 10, 2013|
|Dale Craig, Expert, Engineer, J.L. Richards||July 10, 2013|
|Levon Nazarian, Leasing manager and real estate advisor, Eastwood Mall||Starting July 11 and continuing for the rest of the week of July 8 (and week of July 15 if necessary), 2013|
|Robert Nazarian, Owner, Eastwood Mall||Week of July 15, 2013|