Lawsuit alleges corruption in London, Ont., forestry operations

A $31M lawsuit against the City of London and Davey Tree Expert Co. Filed by CLC Tree Services LTD is alleging an unfair bidding process for city contracts and bias by the city towards Davey Tree.

The Statement of Claim, obtained by Global News, alleges the City had ‘hidden preferences’ towards Davey Tree for years when it came to the bidding process for contract and sub-contract work and that they extended contracts with the Davey Tree without allowing the other companies the chance to apply.

The lawsuit is seeking $15 million in general and compensatory damages and a combined $16 million in punitive damages.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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“They are not in this for a money grab. They are in it to have it returned to a fair system and opportunity to move forward helping to serve the city,” said CLC Tree Services lawyer, Steven Bookman.

“This case involves what we allege and believe is a systemic problem in the in the forestry department in the City of London that has been going on for many years, and as time goes on, there seems to a progression of exclusion of all forestry companies in the London area with exception of one.”

As time goes on, Bookman said the exclusion of other companies in the bidding process has gotten worse to the point where many don’t feel the need to even apply.

The lawsuit claims that since 2003, all arbor and consulting contracts have been award by the City of London to Davey Tree.

“When the pandemic started, the City shut down their forestry department for several weeks, and instead of putting the work out to tender, they awarded all of the work to Davey,“ Bookman said.

“The work normally done by the City’s forestry department was taken over by Davey Tree Company without any other local businesses being able to bid on that work.”

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The lawsuit focuses specifically on subcontracts with contractors awarded jobs for road expansion and construction projects who would then sub-contract things like tree removal to local tree companies.

The claim alleges that in 2019, the City advised CLC that it could not bid on a project because the City would be looking after the arbor work and a contract was taken away from CLC by the City and awarded to Davey Tree Company.

“While we won’t comment on this specific situation, the City’s procurement process is highly governed to ensure the best value for the City, and all purchasing decisions are subject to following this process,” a statement from the City of London read.

Bookman said CLC has made several attempts to ‘sit down with the city and deal with this in a non-conflicting manor,’ but they did not hear back.

Along with Davey Tree and the City of London, city employees Andrew Beaton and John Parsons and the district manager for Davey Tree, Timothy Holley, are named in the lawsuit.

Global News has reached out to Beaton, Holley, and Parsons, all of whom have declined to comment on the ongoing legal matter.

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The suit alleged Andrew Beaton, manager of forestry operations, has a ‘close friendship’ with Holley, and that the two ‘spend a great deal of time together.

Before working for the City of London, the lawsuit said Beaton had previously worked in Holley’s position for the company.

“During the time that the Defendant Beaton worked for Davey he was a shareholder of Defendant Davey and it is not known if he continues to hold those shares,” the statement reads.

The lawsuit claims that before Beaton started to working for the City in 1996, all arbor work had been awarded to other London-area tree service companies and that the company always seems to be the lowest in the bidding process, but that the final bill far exceeded the initial proposal.

“The Defendant Beaton makes his recommendations which are rubber-stamped by the Defendant Parsons who recommends to city council of the Defendant London that the contracts for arbor, vegetation and related consulting work be awarded to the Defendant Davey,” the suit reads.

A statement from the president of Davey Tree denies all of the allegations against the company and that they will ‘vigorously defend’ the lawsuit against the company and its employees.

“We have a long history and well-recognized reputation for integrity in our business including our dealings with the City of London. Davey Tree strenuously denies the baseless allegations in the lawsuit, none of which have been proven in court,” said Mike Nash, Vice President and General Manager, Davey Tree Expert Co. of Canada, Limited.

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“The City of London bidding process has been standard and fair in our experience, and we have consistently been abiding by that process.”

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