Former U.S. President Bill Clinton did it in front of a national TV audience, so has Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on more than one occasion.
Now Burlington Councillor Marianne Meed Ward is calling on city council to take its turn at the podium of atonement by making a public apology to taxpayers for the Burlington Pier fiasco, which cost them a bundle of money.
The projected cost of the construction in 2005 was $6.2 million, but the pier at the foot of Brant Street wound up costing $14.4 million. It was finally opened in 2013.
Not only that, the Ward 2 representative thinks council also should apologize to officials of Harm Schilthuis and Sons, the original pier contractor.
As a result of mediation, the many lawsuits which were filed as a result of faulty work, a crane accident and work delays that followed were finally settled in June without going to trial.
The City of Burlington received $1.5 million and Harm Schilthuis and Sons $1.75 million.
“The City did not remain neutral when the problems arose,” Meed Ward said. “It sided with Aecom, the engineer, and it nearly destroyed the reputation of Schilthuis and almost bankrupted the company.
“The fact the City did not remain neutral meant it could not objectively consider the multiple offers made by the contractor to settle this for a lot less money.
“People said, ‘Work with your contractor and engineer’,” she said. “But this council chose to re-tender and that decision escalated the cost tremendously.”
Meed Ward said, in spite of the settlement the City received, it will never get back the extra money it cost to re-tender and finish the job.
The City was one of nine parties involved in mediation related to the pier’s first construction contract.
Several of the parties paid into a “pool” of dollars, out of which some were compensated.
In addition, the city won’t be required to pay out $500,000 in holdbacks owed to one of the parties in the lawsuit. Harm Schilthuis & Sons also received additional amounts from various parties to the litigation.
The agreement stipulates that no contribution in any form to the settlement shall be deemed an admission of liability, and any such liability is denied.
The City’s cash from the settlement will essentially cover its external legal costs, which were $1.3 million before adding in the recent legal costs from the mediation.
Henk Schilthuis, vice-president of the company, agrees with Meed Ward’s call for an apology.
“They very well should, because we didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “They put our company through hell.”
It’s interesting, though, that Schilthuis doesn’t think the lawsuits actually cost the company business elsewhere.
“We have gained business because everyone knew we didn’t do anything wrong. We had several calls from other companies saying they stood behind us.
His brother, company President Henry Schilthuis, followed suit.
“I am proud of this entrepreneurial and family-owned company,” he said. “Our concerns about the challenges facing the pier guided us in our actions. We maintained our position with dignity and grace – simply because it was the right thing to do.
“It is time to move forward. Quite frankly, we believe this process could have and should have been avoided. We did what we had to do to protect our company, and feel vindicated in all we have done to achieve the settlement.”
Mayor Rick Goldring said litigation costs incurred by the City will be detailed and made public within the next couple of months.
“We have used outside litigators since 2010 and in January we revealed the bulk of the costs, which up to that time was $1.3 million,” he said.
Golding said, in a muted way, he is pleased the whole thing is over but he doesn’t think the City needs to make a public apology to the original contractor.
“I’ve analyzed this thing until I’m blue in the face and I firmly believe council made the right decisions all the way through,” he said.
Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven said he is satisfied with the settlement and supports the majority decision of council. He declined to comment on the possibility of an apology to the Schilthuis company
Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster also sees no need for an apology.
“There was no fault associated with the decision-making, that’s the way the parties decided to leave it,” she said. “I think that’s in the best interests of everyone.”
Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor said the matter has been settled in mediation and no apology is necessary.
Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison and Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman also were contacted for comment, but had not returned calls by The Bay Observer press time.
Acting City Manager Patrick Moyle said it could have cost an additional $1.5 million to $2 million to proceed to trial, with the outcome uncertain.
Written by: Denis Gibbons