Bid-rigging case acquittal leads to $30M suit

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Two years after Don Powell, the owner of TPG Technology, and a multitude of technology consultants were acquitted of 60 charges of bid-rigging to win technology contracts with the federal government, Powell launched a $30-million civil claim against government investigators.

The five plaintiffs, including Powell, his two colleagues – Sue Laycock and Marina Durward – as well as TPG and Spearhead Management Canada, which is owned by Powell, are also seeking an additional $13 million from Shaun Pritchard. Pritchard is the former vice-president for sales for Ridge Falls House. It was his complaint in 2004 to Public Works about computer services contracts at the Canada Border Services Agency that provided the trigger for a decade’s worth of investigations and litigation.

Powell’s statement of claim targets five current and former officials with the Competition Bureau. John Pecman, the Bureau’s current commissioner, is named, along with two former commissioners, Melanie Aitken and Sheridan Scott.

The claim cites 36 “particulars of negligence” involving the two investigators who prepared the case that the wrongdoing occurred – Stephen Fitzpatrick and Colette Morin-Wade.

Also see Acquitted in bid-rigging suit seek $30 million

The claims range from alleged failure to properly understand the nature of the computer services industry and government contracting, to an alleged failure to consult witnesses other than those who were in competition with Powell.

It alleged that Morin-Wade had “little to no formal training” before the start of the investigation, and that both she and Fitzpatrick received no instruction about the investigator’s duty to remain objective and interview “all relevant witnesses.”

The statement of claim also alleges the investigators “intended to injure the plaintiffs.”

In 2005, Powell and his colleagues had bid on more than $60 million worth of computer services contracts at the Canada Border Services Agency, Transport Canada and Public Works. In doing so, they exchanged information under the consultants’ daily rates, which is allowed under government contract rules.

The Crown produced no evidence of collusion over setting the price of the final bids.

All five plaintiffs are seeking $1 million each in punitive damages in addition to the other sums sought.

Read more at Ottawa Citizen