August 07, 2014 - 2:19 PM
KAMLOOPS – Tom Gaglardi, owner of the NHL's Dallas Stars, and his company Northland Properties Corporation, were convicted Thursday morning of harmfully altering a fish habitat while constructing their family vacation home.
“There was an element of wilfulness and a desire to get the job done and if necessary, seek forgiveness later,” Provincial Court Judge Stephen Harrison said in his decision.
Tom’s father, Bob Gaglardi, was acquitted of the same charges. Tom and Bob were not present in court for the decision.
Both Gaglardis and their company, which owns over 200 businesses, were charged after making significant landscaping changes to their property near Savona. The company hired Jim Parks as a site manager to oversee the project.
The original charges against Parks were stayed. Harrison said Parks "said he had concerns that he would be scapegoated by the other defendants.”
The Gaglardis removed vegetations from the seven-lot property in 2010 including a large portion of an orchard. The site was excavated and rip-rap was added to fill and level expanded areas.
The family planned to add two storeys and five bedrooms to the existing three-bedroom bungalow, built in the 1950s. The family dubbed it “Tom’s Shack,” a term adopted in court. There were also alleged plans to create a parking lot and boat launch.
Construction halted following a complaint and eventual investigation by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2011.
Parks, Tom and Northland draftsman Scott Harwood had regular communication on the site’s construction progress. During trial, Tom said he did not direct Parks to remove the orchard and said he didn’t even know what rip-rap was, let alone its addition to the site.
Parks said Tom put Harwood in charge of the project. Harwood sent plans to Parks through Universal Reproductions, a company which develops blueprints.
“Between July 2010 and April 2011, 17 sets of plans for work at the Gaglardi property were sent to Parks through Universal Reproductions,” Harrison said.
Harwood told the court he never understood some emails about site development from Parks. He said he would delete the emails and wait for Parks to call.
Parks said his emails to Harwood included pictures about the site’s development, but Harwood said he didn't receive them. Harwood said Parks had moved on with preliminary plans that were not approved.
After officials launched the investigation, Parks called Harwood to say they were going to jail which then prompted him to email Parks and request he destroy evidence linking him or the company to the drawings.
“At many points, Mr. Harwood’s evidence caused me concern,” Harrison said. “I have very little confidence in the truthfulness of his evidence.... Neither was I impressed by Mr. Harwood’s commitment to the truth when he admitted his first response to news the (department) was investigating to direct Mr. Parks to destroy evidence.”
Bob was acquitted in part because as he was not copied on any of the emails in evidence. Harrison said he could not determine Bob’s level of involvement, despite speaking with Harwood about developing the property’s parking lot. In an email to Parks, Harwood said the two worked on the plans over five days, but in his evidence at trial Harwood said the total amount of time he spoke to Bob was around ten minutes.
“If Tom Gaglardi and Northland did not intend to harm the fish habitat,” Harrison said. “They certainly did nothing to inform themselves of their obligation or to engage in processes that might present challenges or hamper progress.”
Harrison said it’s difficult to determine the level of harm caused to the habitat, but destruction of vegetation which would feed fish could have long lasting effects. Tom told the court he paid around $80,000 in restoration fees.
“This is not a situation where 80 or 85 thousand dollars in remediation can restore what had been lost,” Harrison said.
A date for sentencing will be set on Aug. 21.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014