Manager of collapsed Ontario mall admits lying to tenants
The inquiry into the deadly collapse of the roof at Algo Centre mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., has heard about altered documents and questionable repairs to the structure in the years leading up to the June 2012 tragedy.
A former mall manager testified Wednesday she was asked to fake financial information and lie to mall tenants about plans to fix the roof, which had a history of leaking problems.
When Henrieth Laroue was hired to be an administrative assistant at the mall in 2007, the last thing she expected was to be tasked with the mall manager duties.
But that’s exactly what happened after the mall manager was fired.
Laroue told the inquiry that mall owner Bob Nazarian suddenly gave her the title of manager.
“I was very shocked,” she said. “I said to him, ‘No, I don't know anything about fixing that roof’.”
Laroue said Nazarian told her not to worry, and that he had engineering experience and knew how to fix it.
The roof leaked so badly that by 2008, Laroue recalled purchasing every bucket from the Dollarama store to catch the water.
'I told him it was illegal'
Tenants were demanding answers from the new mall manager.
Laroue said Nazarian instructed her to tell them $1 million was being spent to fix the roof.
She admitted she did so — even though she didn't believe it was true, saying she felt “terrible ... I was lying.”
Laroue also told the inquiry Nazarian asked her to alter documents that showed the amount of rent the mall was collecting.
“I believe I told him it was illegal,” she said, adding that she didn't know what the documents were used for.
The inquiry has heard during earlier testimony that, around the same time period, Nazarian was attempted to obtain more financing to pay for roof repairs.
Nazarian will have the chance to respond to what the inquiry has heard when he appears in July.
The inquiry was established in July 2012 by the Ontario government to report on events surrounding the mall roof's collapse, and the deaths of Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo, as well as the injuries to others and the emergency management and response.
Hearings began March 4 and are expected to conclude with testimony from former Premier Dalton McGuinty on Sept 12.