Engineers who declared mall structurally sound were guilty of professional misconduct in 2010 – by Stephen Spencer Davis (Globe and Mail – July 14, 2012)

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Two engineers who this year signed a letter declaring the Elliot Lake Algo Centre Mall structurally sound were found guilty of professional misconduct for work on an unrelated project by a provincial regulatory body in 2010.

The Ontario Provincial Police are conducting a criminal investigation into the Algo Centre’s collapse on June 23, which killed two people and injured several more. A judge was recently appointed to head a public inquiry.

Although city officials have remained tight-lipped about past inspections on the mall, documents released this week reveal that the engineers, Gregory Saunders and Robert Wood of M.R. Wright & Associates, inspected the building as recently as April, 2012.

Details of inspections on the Algo Centre performed by M.R. Wright are sparse, and there is no indication of any irregularities in the firm’s work there. A May, 2012, letter to the mall’s manager, Rhonda Bear, signed by Mr. Wood and Mr. Saunders, noted rust on beams in the mall, but declared the building structurally sound.

Three years earlier, M.R. Wright conducted an inspection and in a letter to Henri McCleery, the manager at the time, Mr. Wood warned that leaks had damaged the building’s fire proofing.

In November, 2010, the discipline committee for Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) signed a decision finding the two men and their firm, M.R. Wright & Associates, guilty of professional misconduct for their work on the rehabilitation of a private logging bridge in Northern Ontario.

Bridge owner Wagner Forest Management Ltd. retained M.R. Wright in 2004 to provide on-site inspections and designs for the repairs, according to statements of allegations provided by PEO. Because the bridge was on Crown land, the Ministry of Natural Resources maintained authority over the project.

The documents say that, between 2004 and 2007, MNR engineers and a third-party consultant hired by PEO raised several concerns, including work done without a proper permit and incorrect information on the bridge’s capacity in designs for the project.

The statements also allege that M.R. Wright failed to inspect some bridge components and provided official drawings that contained “numerous errors, omissions or deficiencies.”

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