Nfld. & Labrador

Ousted NLC boss suing province for more than $300K

Fired NLC boss Steve Winter is suing the province, alleging he's owed more than $300,000 in compensation for being let go without cause in January 2018.

Steve Winter alleges he's owed money for being fired without cause

Former NLC president and CEO Steve Winter is suing the government for more compensation following his termination in January 2018. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Ousted NLC boss Steve Winter is suing the province, alleging he's owed more than $300,000 in compensation for being fired for no reason in January 2018. 

"The termination of Winter's employment was not for cause," reads a statement of claim filed at Supreme Court earlier this month. 

It says that when he was let go, Winter was offered 12 months' salary, continued group insurance coverage and pension plan for 12 months, and paid a lump sum equivalent to 1,350 hours of paid leave.

The statement filed Sept. 18 argues Winter was instead entitled to a 24-month notice period including all forms of compensation he received while at the NLC, given his age, years of service and senior position.

Questions swirled around shakeup

Winter had served as president and chief executive officer of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation, a Crown corporation, for over 13 years when he was suddenly let go by the government at age 68. He was replaced by Sharon Sparkes, whom he had actually fired the month prior because of conflicting views. 

At the time, Winter accused the province of inappropriate interference while Finance Minister Tom Osborne said the shakeup was partially due to the government's desire to cut costs and have someone comfortable with its role in marijuana sales in charge.

The NLC is responsible for legal cannabis supply and sales in the province.

In his statement of claim, Winter said the compensation package he received consisted of one year's salary at $239,310, group health benefits, an $8,000 annual vehicle allowance, pensionable service accrual, employer pension contributions, severance accrual and 255 hours of annual leave valuing $31,296.15 a year.

Winter was fired by the government months before cannabis became legal. The NLC is responsible for legal cannabis supply and sales in the province. (CBC)

It does not provide a lump sum of that package. 

However, based on a two-year "reasonable notice period," the statement argues Winter was short-changed and is entitled to another year's worth of each, which adds up to more than $300,000. It claims he's owed $22,766.42 for another 185.5 hours of unpaid annual leave, at $122.73 per hour, that should have been included in his initial package as well. 

Winter is also asking for interest, costs for the legal action, and any further relief the judge finds appropriate. 

The statement's claims have not been tested in court. The province has not yet filed its defence to Winter's lawsuit, but Tom Osborne, minister responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation, offered a statement to CBC News.

"Mr. Winter was provided a benefits package in accordance with his entitlements under the law. The amount paid to Mr. Winter totalled nearly $250,000 (Mr. Winter's base salary was $239,300, in addition to an $8,000 in car allowance, as was reported in June 2016 as part of the Compensation Disclosure Legislation)," Osborne said in an e-mailed statement.

"However, as this is now before the court, it would be inappropriate to comment further until a decision has been made by the court."

When contacted by CBC Tuesday, a spokesperson for the NLC said no one at the organization would be commenting on the issue because it is before the courts. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Peter Cowan