CWB suing Ottawa for ex-chief’s severance: MCO

The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) has filed suit against the federal government to get back the severance it paid ex-CEO Adrian Measner after the government fired him in late 2006, according to the Manitoba Co-operator.

The suit was filed in Court of Queen’s Bench in Winnipeg May 4, the newspaper reported Thursday.

“We didn’t take this lightly,” CWB chair Larry Hill told Co-operator reporter Allan Dawson. “We believe it’s a solid case and there are substantial issues here for us. It’s farmers’ money.”

Citing Measner’s public statements in favour of the CWB’s sales monopoly on Prairie wheat and barley, then-federal Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl fired him from his CWB post. Measner was replaced on an interim basis by former CWB CEO Greg Arason.

Measner was fired despite the objections of the CWB’s board of directors, Hill said May 15. The CWB paid Measner’s severance only after the government rejected a request from the board to do so.

The CWB now wants to be reimbursed for those costs, as well as interest and legal bills, and also seeks “special damages,” which a CWB official defined as any cost, including the search for a new president and CEO, that the CWB incurred due to Measner’s termination.

The federal government fired Measner one year into a renewed three-year contract, and “therefore also knew or ought to have known that the CWB would be obliged to pay Measner damages to compensate him for the termination of the contract without cause or notice,” the CWB’s statement of claim says in part.

The claim states the government “unreasonably and unfairly placed the economic consequences of its political and self-interested actions on the CWB and the Canadian grain farmers it serves.”

The suit doesn’t specify what Measner received in severance, but the government knows the figure, said Hill, who farms at Swift Current, Sask.

Based on Measner’s years of service and the years left in his contract, the Co-operator estimates the severance alone could possibly have been over $1.3 million.

Measner went on to a new post in 2007, heading the grains operations of Toronto-based shipping and grain handling firm Upper Lakes Group.

Current federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, on a trade mission last week to Colombia and Peru, was unavailable for comment for the Co-operator’s article.

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