Credit Union Centre.
Greg Pender / Saskatoon Star Phoenix
A Saskatoon judge has ordered that SaskTel Centre pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to two long-term senior managers who were fired in 2012 after the company’s executive director accused them of misspending company money during a business trip.William Antonishyn, former director of ticketing and finance for what was then called Credit Union Centre, and Brian Swidrovich, former director of business and sponsorship, were dismissed for cause on Jan. 20, 2012 when Antonishyn was 62 years old and Swidrovich was 56. Will Lofdahl, who had taken over the role of executive director of Credit Union Centre weeks earlier, said they lost their jobs because they had inappropriately expensed nearly $8,000 on a trip to Arizona with the organization’s outgoing executive director in the fall of 2011. Expenses included airfare, meals, drinks, golf and tickets to an Arizona Cardinals football game.Antonishyn and Swidrovich filed a wrongful dismissal suit that went to trial at Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench in late 2017. This month, more than seven years after the men were terminated, Justice Richard Elson issued a 70-page written decision in which he found that Credit Union Centre did not have cause to fire the men.He ordered Credit Union Centre — now SaskTel Centre — to pay Antonishyn damages equal to 24 months of income and benefits he would have received during the corresponding period of time following his dismissal and to pay Swidrovich 20 months worth of damages.In 2011, the year before they were fired, Antonishyn and Swidrovich each earned $102,222.Their lawyer, Larry Seiferling, said he and his clients still need to do the math, but he expects each of them will receive between $250,000 and $300,000.Elson did not award moral or punitive damages to the former Credit Union Centre employees. Seiferling said he and his clients are talking about whether to appeal that decision.“I’ve just got to take a look at whether the amount for the years that these people have suffered and waited, if the amount is what I think is correct,” Seiferling said.“At the end of the day they’re happy that they finally got a court to say that they didn’t do anything wrong, but there’s still some sense of frustration with the process, with the length of time and the fact that your life can be ruined by something like this.”Medical evidence submitted to Elson and referenced in his decision said that, since being fired, Antonishyn has experienced mood instability, tearfulness, poor concentration and insomnia while Swidrovich has suffered physical symptoms including high blood pressure, chest pain, difficulty sleeping and “a degree of social isolation.”At trial, Seiferling argued that his clients were on a business meeting that had been approved by the Credit Union Centre’s outgoing executive director, who attended the trip before retiring. He said the purpose of the trip was to strengthen the organization’s relationship with a client and to do research that could inform discussions about a possible professional football team in Saskatoon.Lawyers for SaskTel Centre argued there was no legitimate business reason for the trip and it was not appropriately approved by the board. Lofdahl said even though the trip was approved by the outgoing executive director, Antonishyn and Swidrovich should have known it was wrong.Elson disagreed with that, noting that prior to Lofdahl’s hiring, the Credit Union Centre management team was given a “relatively free hand” in deciding how to make the centre successful and had gone on similar trips with no repercussions.“I found it questionable for (Lofdahl) to have retrospectively applied his own standards, as commendable as they may be, to practices that existed well before he arrived on the scene,” Elson wrote.“If the circumstances of the 2011 trip persuaded the Board and Mr. Lofdahl that management reporting practices were not sufficiently transparent, it was open for it to make the necessary changes to avoid similar problems in the future. However, it was not open for the Board or Mr. Lofdahl to change the landscape retrospectively and destroy the careers of two long-standing employees in the process.”In a written statement, City of Saskatoon solicitor Patricia Warwick said the city’s legal team is reviewing the judgment.“SaskTel Centre respects the court process and the right of the plaintiffs to a fair trial,” she wrote. “As the events which relate to this Judgment arose in 2011 and 2012, SaskTel is looking forward to concluding this matter and moving forward with an eye on the future of SaskTel Centre.”email@example.comTwitter.com/MsAndreaHillRelated Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Brian Swidrovich was the former director of ticketing and finance for what was then called Credit Union Centre. His correct title is former director of business and sponsorship.