July 12, 2018 4:59 pm
Updated: July 13, 2018 12:05 am

7 City of Port Coquitlam staff fired over alleged decade-spanning copper theft scheme

A bizarre story out of Port Coquitlam, where seven city employees have been fired for allegedly operating a copper theft scheme for the past ten years. Jill Bennett has the story.

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The City of Port Coquitlam has fired seven employees over allegations they were involved in a decade-long scheme to steal tens of thousands of dollars worth of copper.

In a statement, the City of Port Coquitlam said it began investigating the allegations in February.

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“The theft scheme was highly coordinated by those involved, included multiple steps – each step carried out covertly,” said the statement.

“The thefts have been taking place for more than a decade. It involved the deliberate, covert theft and sale of city property, mostly new property.”

The city says the seven employees were fired with cause, meaning they will not receive severance.

John Leeburn, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the revelation of the scheme stunned many of their colleagues.

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“The range of emotions over the last three or four months have been gut-wrenching to be honest. We’ve gone from shock to anger to dismay to confusion. I think confusion is probably the place that we’ve landed,” he said.

“I don’t know all the employees involved. I know a small number of them, and I continue to ask myself how did good people make such bad decisions?”

The city claims the alleged thieves took the materials over a period of more than 10 years, and later resold them for what it “conservatively” estimates as $75,000.

“The price the city originally paid for the property is much more than that,” according to the city.

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The city claims that individual participants in the scheme pocketed anywhere from $100 to $10,000 each for their role.

It says it took disciplinary action against the employees after “careful consideration of the evidence,” and that it will be handing details of the investigation over to the RCMP once it’s internal probe has concluded.

The Coquitlam RCMP says it is aware of the allegations, but has yet to receive a formal complaint.

Cpl. Michael McLauchin said police would be ready to investigate if and when such a complaint was made.

The city has not identified the fired workers, however it said they were employed in the Public Works Department.

“We want to stress the actions of the employees involved are not reflective of the character and commitment of the vast majority of the city’s employees who work hard every day to earn the trust of our citizens,” said the city.

The city said it is now reviewing its internal processes to prevent similar thefts from taking place in the future.

It said it has also implemented new city procedures in the wake of another employee being charged with theft last year. Those changes include the implementation of a new whistle blower policy in November.

-With files from Michelle Morton

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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