Lawyer involved in ill-fated condo development resigns
Edmonton Journal
By Brent Wittmeier
27 December 2014

Darryl Short bought two units.

EDMONTON - An Edmonton lawyer who represented hundreds of local aboriginals in the Indian Residential Schools settlements has quit practising law ahead of disciplinary action for his part in an ill-fated condo development.

Following a legal career that spanned more than half a century — and garnered a mention in the historic 2005 agreement in principle between the federal government and residential school claimants — Leslie Meiklejohn resigned from the Law Society of Alberta in mid-September.
According to a hearing report posted online at the Law Society of Alberta website earlier this month, Meiklejohn admits he failed to live up to sales agreements for Leduc’s Bellavera Green condo development. He didn’t pay the $100,000 per unit stipulated by the deals, while failing to disclose units already had other mortgages registered against them.

Helmed by mortgage fraudster Kevyn Frederick, the partially constructed Bellavera Green condo development fell into financial trouble in late 2011, when millions of dollars in mortgages and loans disappeared, leaving multiple claims on Frederick’s highly leveraged real estate holdings.

After Frederick failed to pay contractors or mortgages, construction stopped at the site. Safety concerns went unresolved, and by early 2012, the Leduc Fire Department evacuated the building because of safety concerns.

their properties never really belonged to them

Owners of the units eventually learned their properties never really belonged to them. Multiple mortgages were already on their titles. Most buyers at Bellavera Green condos had borrowed extensively to buy multiple condo units, but ended up with little apart from mortgage payments.

The condo was finally sold out of receivership in March 2013 for $16.68 million, with the proceeds going to other debtors.

Meiklejohn’s resignation came before disciplinary hearing proceedings that might have disbarred him anyway. A three-member committee accepted Meiklejohn’s application in part to avoid a lengthy hearing. Meiklejohn had no disciplinary record before Bellavera, and cooperated during the society’s investigation into his role. He promised to co-operate with claims made against the Law Society and to not seek reinstatement. He was ordered to pay $2,450 for the hearing plus the costs of an investigation.

The time frame, not the resignation itself, is what surprises Darryl Short, an engineering technologist and a former condo board president at Bellavera Green. Short personally lost $444,000, he said, when his lawyer transferred money to Meiklejohn as part of a deal for two units. Short still keeps in touch with his fellow investors, who he said feel they got “thrown through the mud.”

After Frederick disappeared, banks and mortgage companies began targeting Meiklejohn through civil proceedings. Meiklejohn’s personal assets were seized and he was forced into bankruptcy proceedings. Mortgage companies fought with the law society over his $2-million insurance policy — the mandatory minimum for Alberta lawyers — and the possibility of additional money from the society’s assurance “missing money” fund.

Short is doubtful he and his fellow residents will ever get their money back. But a settlement between Bellavera creditors and the law society over the assurance fund might finally stop banks from pursuing their lost mortgages. Former Bellavera condo buyers would then be able to rebuild ruined credit ratings and move on with their lives.

No charges were ever laid...

No charges were ever laid against Frederick or anyone else.

Meiklejohn couldn’t be reached for comment. According to his LinkedIn profile, he’d had his own legal practice in Edmonton since 1990. He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 1961, came to Edmonton in 1969, then worked for Alberta Justice for nine years.

Meiklejohn was admitted to the bar in Alberta in April, 1970. In the early 2000s, Meiklejohn represented hundreds of Indian Residential School survivors who sued the federal government for abuse suffered in church-run schools in Alberta.

“You often get the feeling you’re banging your head against the wall,” he said in 2004, describing government responses to the early legal cases. The next year, his law firm was one of 19 named as a consortium hired to process residential school complaints.

In the days after Bellavera Green’s evacuation, Meiklejohn expressed surprise his former partner had disappeared. Frederick was a bright, ambitious man who emerged from a tough childhood in Montreal with a strong desire to make something of his life, he said.

“He worked pretty hard to carve a niche for himself in the world,” Meiklejohn said at the time. “I have some ideas about how he got into this mess, but they are only guesses. I have nothing to substantiate them.”

top  contents  chapter  previous  next