September 26, 2018 6:46 pm

Montreal suing for $14 million over infamous water-meter contract

WATCH: Montreal is trying to recover taxpayer dollars by suing former companies and individuals involved in the infamous water-meter scandal. As Global's Tim Sargeant reports, the city is seeking more than $14 million it alleges it had to pay in damages and penalties.

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Benoit Dorais is adamant about Montreal’s exact intentions. The city is suing more than a dozen former companies and individuals for $14 million.

It’s money the executive committee president claims was robbed from the city during the infamous water-meter contract scandal.

“The money was stolen by dishonest people, dishonest companies and we want to retrieve that money,” Dorais said Wednesday morning.

Former executive committee president Frank Zampino and construction magnate Tony Accurso are some of the defendants listed.

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The 94-page suit claims the city unjustly had to pay $14 million in penalties and damages for cancelling the contract.

The water-meter deal — awarded to a consortium headed by Accurso — was the largest ever signed by the city more than a decade ago.

But it was cancelled following a critical report by the auditor general.

Montreal now wants to get back the money it had to pay out when the deal was called off.

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“We want to be sure that we will win in court,” Dorais said.

But there are no assurances the city will win.

Longtime city Coun. Marvin Rotrand was there during the tumultuous times of the water-meter scandal.

He says the city already reached a settlement with the consortium after cancelling the contract.

Now, Rotrand says it will be tough for the city to go after them again.

“In 2012, the city negotiated a deal to get out of the contract because the contract was legally binding. The city did not say at the time there was anything illegal in the contract,” he told Global News.

At least one litigation lawyer says while the city has a case, there are still a lot of legal hurdles to overcome.

For one, it’s not easy to recover money from construction companies that no longer exist.

And the city is relying on a new untested law that allows lawsuits to be filed concerning incidents that occurred years ago.

“Part of the problem with this law is that it hasn’t been tested constitutionally in terms of statues of limitations and whether they’ve gone too far,” Harry Dikranian, a litigation lawyer with Lapointe Rosenstein Marchand Melançon told Global News.

If the case is heard in court, it could take years before a decision is rendered.

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

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