Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Opinions, Allegations and Threats

Posted by auroracitizen on September 16, 2010

The Aurora Citizen is again the target of a letter from the Town solicitor demanding that comments be removed from this blog.

On Sept 14th, Mr Bill Hogg received a registered letter from Christopher C. Cooper, Director of Legal Services/Town Solicitor with the comment “While the Town does not seek to stifle fair and accurate comment, we hereby ask that you remove the posts from the Blog, which posts suggest  Mr Ballantyne is or has acted unethically and illegally in his role as the Town’s manager of Corporate Communications.”

Within the letter he also indicates the specific comments that are the subject of the letter.

So let’s be clear –in the quest for accuracy.

The comments identified by Mr Cooper are not posts written by someone associated with this blog — they were comments submitted by readers of this blog.

The first comment suggested that a Phyllis Morris quote included in a Banner article on her campaign for re-election was written by Mr Ballantyne.

The second comment indicated that they hoped that Mr Ballantyne was not responsible for updating comments on Wikipedia since they could be looked upon as electioneering edits.

Both comments expressed opinion. They were not asserted as statements of fact by the commentors.

The issue from the town perspective is that these comments implied that Mr Ballantyne was improperly using his office to help a candidate for re-election — which is inappropriate and a serious accusation under the Code of Conduct governing Town employees as well as the Municipal Elections Act, 1996.

Fair enough — we have removed the 2 comments at the request of the Town since it is the Town’s position that “the suggestions made in the posts were not true, have no basis in fact”. You can read the entire letter by clicking on the pictures above.

We also do not want any allegations published — either by contributors to this blog or the numerous readers who comment.

We believe the protection of staff from being embroiled in political debate is an important issue. Staff are expected to remain outside the political battles at all times. After all, this terms enemy, might be next terms boss.

We trust that Phyllis Morris and the remainder of Council share this view.

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41 Responses to “Opinions, Allegations and Threats”

  1. Guy Poppe said

    119] The “repetition rule” holds that repeating a libel has the same legal consequences as originating it. This rule reflects the law’s concern that one should not be able to freely publish a scurrilous libel simply by purporting to attribute the allegation to someone else. The law will not protect a defendant who is “willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike”: “Truth” (N.Z.) Ltd. v. Holloway, [1960] 1 W.L.R. 997 (P.C.), at p. 1001, per Lord Denning. In sum, the repetition rule preserves the accountability of media and other reporting on matters of public interest. The “bald retailing of libels” is not in the public interest: Charman, per Sedley LJ., at para. 91. Maintaining the repetition rule is particularly important in the age of the internet, when defamatory material can spread from one website to another at great speed.

    Supreme Court of Canada

    • Thanks Will Be Given Come October said

      I have a ‘repetition rule’ of my own.

      Stop sounding like a broken record.

      The bottom line is that Mayor Morris has accomplished nothing extraordinary in the last four years while wasting countless dollars on studies, consultants, lawyers and severance packages all at taxpayer expense.

      I have great respect for the Office of Mayor. I have nothing but contempt for the way she has conducted herself and her treatment of others.

  2. Anonymous said

    And then there’s councillor Buck. She squawks about her right to absolute freedom of speech when someone questions what she writes.

    But when the shoe’s on the other foot– ie. the GOS taking out an ad calling her out — she launches a libel suit.

    You can’t have it both ways councillor.

    • Anonymous said

      You’re kidding, right??? I’m all for poking fun and having a good laugh, but some jokes just aren’t that funny.

      You don’t have to read Evelyn’s blog or believe a damn word she says. It’s all out there, on the tv and in the minutes. Go back, watch the council meetings from May 12, & 26, 2009, read the published minutes. That’s a good place to start. That’s just a small part of it. Then ask yourself it this is really as simple as an ad taken out in the paper.

      Also, please consider this; Cllr. Buck is passionate about her right to free speach. She is willing to defend that right using her own money. The same cannot be said for the six. These righteous defenders of integrity are relying on the taxpayors to pull them out of the cesspool they waded into. Insurance will cover it? Yeah right, tax dollars pay the premiums, no matter how this mess shakes out, the premiums will be jacked. I’m not happy about the lawsuit. I’m not happy about all the money wasted on lawyers before that trying to shut her up. I think there are six people who should be putting their own money where their feet already reside.

      Luckywife

    • evelyn.buck said

      “But when the shoe’s on the other foot– ie. the GOS taking out an ad calling her out — she launches a libel suit”

      The Gang Of Six went behind closed doors for the express purpose of plotting the political demise of an elected representative.

      There is nothing in the Municipal Act that permits that.

      There is nothing in the permissive legislation for Codes of Conduct that envisages that behaviour.

      They spent $100Ks of taxpayers’ money we know about on lawyers to accomplish their objective.

      Anonymous may be right. There may be no difference between this situation and mine.

      But consider this:

      First, it has already been established they did not succeed in silencing my voice.

      Second, the election will determine if they were successful in destroying my reputation.

      And third, a jury will decide if they properly exercised public trust in spending $100Ks of public resources, in their determined effort to destroy my reputation and to deny that which is mine under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

      The hour is almost upon us.The wheel turns.

    • Knowledgeable in Aurora said

      Well said Luckywife.

  3. evelyn.buck said

    Here’s a thought

    What if the town’s manager of communications was informed at the time of his appointment, the job was to put every decision of the Mormac regime in the best light possible.

    And to refute any comment out there that might run counter to that objective.

    I picked up in a news story, Mayor David Miller of Toronto has a public relations officer attached to his office.

    If that was the purpose of the new hire in Aurora,would the communications officer not merely be seen to be doing the job he was hired to do and doing it well when he projects decisions in the best possible light.

    Certainly, from my perspective, the function of the corporate communications division was changed to be the public relations arm of the Mayor’s office long before the appointment of the Manager of Communications.

    Check back and see when the Mayor’s name started to be included in media releases regardless of whether or not it fit.

    Cast your mind back to the account I gave of the former communications director being harassed at a Council meeting by the Mormac tag team at the time of her annual report on the communication division.

    The definition of “corporate communication” provided did not sit well with the dreadful duo.Their anger was palpable. The slant of media releases changed perceptibly from then on.

    I believe that staff person was eventually displaced from her job because her heart was not in what she was being required to do.

    It was not her understanding of her function.

    Ergo, she is no longer with the organisation.

  4. Mike said

    Have any of you read some of the comments on the CBC new site or the Globe and Mail – Their editors allow more contentious comments to be posted and yet I don’t hear about legal threats…

  5. Huh? said

    Wow, this is bizarre.
    Does anyone actually remember reading that comment? I don’t. And the comment certainly didn’t start a hot thread that got any other commenters knickers in a twist. The lawyer’s letter gave it waaaay more importance than any other commenters apparently did. Why draw attention to something that no other commenter seemed to care about? Mountain meet molehill.
    I read a lot of blogs on the internet. This one is a lightweight for content and language.
    I think we all need to get out more and know there is a big wide interwebbing world out there.
    I shake my head with the silliness of all of this.

    • Tempest meet Teapot said

      Good points all. The opinions didn’t seem to really register at the time. And why send a legal letter weeks after the fact? The time for indignation was when the comments/suppositions were posted, wasn’t it? Isn’t taking offence an immediate reaction? (Perhaps someone at the Town Hall is getting behind on their reading)

      Mind you, it doesn’t hurt certain factions to try to depict the Aurora Citizen blog as being unfair and lacking veracity, does it?

    • Fred said

      Yeah, seems a bit after the fact and so unnecessary. Frankly, I don’t remember the comment either so it certaintly doesn’t seem to warrant legal eagle’s attention. Haven’t we got bigger fish frying?

    • Anonymous said

      Easy to say when it’s not your professional reputation on the line.

    • Tempest meet Teapot said

      “Easy to say when it’s not your professional reputation on the line.”

      I might agree with you if the comments – speculation, insinuation; call it what you will – were published in a proper publication and attributed to someone (e.g., former employer, colleague, politician, etc.). But, c’mon, anonymous comments on a weblog?! Hardly damning, I would’ve thought.

      Is the allegedly aggrieved party really that insecure?

    • Anonymous said

      He was named publicly.

      Google has a wide reach.

      Most employers do internet searches on prospective employees.

      You do the math.

    • Duh said

      People, it’s a blog. It is personal opinion. One hit on a blog that is so obviously full of crap about politicians in a small, dysfunctional town?
      The “aggrieved party” needs a thicker skin to work in this town’s political climate if this was his idea. I some how doubt it.
      Maybe there will be the need for a prospective employer after Oct 25. Good fellow – thinking ahead.

    • Tempest meet Teapot said

      How much credence would a potential employer give to anonymous blog comments? Any that would, you wouldn’t want to work for.

      (No math required)

    • Get Over It... said

      Let’s all do our best to get out and vote for new and improved working conditions at the Town Hall.

    • Anonymous Indeed said

      No math required indeed. Of course a potential employer wouldn’t put much credence in a comment on a political blog. What a load of cow patties.

    • Anonymous said

      The lack of empathy here is pretty sad. The guy isn’t a politician — he’s staff. He shouldn’t be dragged into it.

      I love how some of you feel you know best how someone else should feel and react when someone publicly “assumes” they’ve done something illegal.

      And whether or not it’s on a blog doesn’t matter. It’s the principle involved.

    • Anonymous said

      Perhaps there would be more empathy if there wasn’t the niggling suspicion that this threat was less about defending delicate sensibilities, and more about discrediting and stifling this blog.

  6. Anonymous said

    “The comments identified by Mr Cooper are not posts written by someone associated with this blog — they were comments submitted by readers of this blog.”

    Good luck using this defence in court. Do you think Ron Wallace wouldn’t be sued if a libelous letter to the editor ran in the Auroran?

    If I remember correctly, councillor Buck is also suing the Banner for running the ad from the mayor and some councillors. According to your logic, the paper wouldn’t be at fault because it didn’t write the ad, it only published it.

    Since you have to approve posts before they go live, I’d love to hear how you’d argue innocence in court.

  7. Anonymous said

    luckywife obviously gets the difference between fair comment and defamation.

    People are entitled to their opinions and a free to speak. However, under the rule of law in Canada, there are ramifications if that speech is defamatory or incites hatred.

    To use a cliche, you’re free to yell “fire” in a crowded theatre. However, would you accuse the police of trying to censor you when you’re arrested for public mischief and/or endangerment?

    But here’s a more on-point example — try posting this on a public website: “I think Mr. (insert last name here) is an embezzler. I mean, he drives a fancy car, right? And I don’t think he could afford it on his salary. I assume he’s embezzling from his company.”

    Opinion, right? Sure. But it’s also defamatory if you have no proof Mr. X is, in fact, embezzling.

    According to some people here, you should be able to say whatever you want about someone, whether or not it’s true, and not expect consequences.

    There’s a big difference between, “I think the mayor’s done a lousy job” and “assuming” a town employee was helping her get re-elected, which would be illegal.

    To me, this is nothing more than gutter politics. Trying to make the mayor look like she was inappropriately using the town’s communications officer is great for scoring political points against her, but what about the employee’s professional reputation?

    I don’t think for a minute anyone posting here wouldn’t be equally upset and demand a retraction if someone–on a public forum no less–“assumed” or “insinuated” they were doing something illegal.

  8. Guy Poppe said

    to lucky wife

    a very articulate and persuasive response.

    The point about being married to a lawyer, well I’ll leave that to others.

    • Anonymous said

      Guy:
      I accept that lawyers are a nescessary evil. So are prostate exams. Enough said.

      Respectfully,
      Luckywife

  9. Anonymous said

    Friends, please, I implore you to read the letter. This is about an EMPLOYEE, it has nothing to do with the Mayor or any of the Councilors. Our right to free speech is not being trampled. Town staff aren’t free to answer us back or challenge our assertions, not if they want to keep their jobs. If they are not to be involved then we shouldn’t be involving them by making accusations against them that have no basis in fact. To my shame, I learned that the hard way.

    Luckywife

  10. Guy Poppe said

    To another anonymous

    Yea, if you think you are getting a balanced response, dream on. I have had numerous responses censorced, along with those of other contributors.

    I doubt this comment will meet your eyes.

  11. Another Anonymous said

    It saddens me to know that a person isn’t allowed to express their opinions without being judged and slapped on the hands by the Town’s lawyers. I love the AC because it’s an informative forum and place where we can disagree/agree on certain issues and vent our frustrations with regards to the town. Where else can we do that? Certainly not at Open Forum at the Council Meetings!!

    As I’ve said before, everyone is entitled to their opinion and opinions are neither right nor wrong, they just are!! Perhaps the Mayor herself should be reading the blogs and comments in this forum instead of paying someone else to.

    Can’t wait for this election – I’ll be voting for all new candidates!!

  12. Stephanie said

    Well, here’s my opinion. And it is just that: my opinion — so nobody can sue me for libel.

    I happen to be a bit overweight; I also happen to be somewhat intellectual.

    If someone were to call me “stupid” in writing, I would laugh, because I consider myself so far from stupid that it’s an obvious joke. If someone were to call me “fat” in writing, however, I might get upset. I might even get my lawyer to write a letter.

    Looks like the postings here might be striking a nerve.

    I can understand it. I’d be offended, too, if it were MY name attached to the words coming out of the mayor’s mouth.

    Just my two cents. ;-)

  13. jargong said

    How do we stamp out free speech in the police state of Aurora? Why, use the town solicitor to issue threats! This was instigated, no doubt, by Her Rudeness herself! In essence, Mr Cooper is now campaigning on behalf of Her Rudeness! He should look to his own integrity. This matter should be brought to the attention of the LSUC.

  14. Anonymous said

    To Anonymous & Resident:

    Were you able to read the comments before they were pulled? The poster made an accusation that he did not and can not (given the context of the comment) substantiate and he named names. That’s over the line. There is a difference between an opionion and a fact. Sometimes it is not about WHAT we say, but how WE say it or write it. That’s what happened in this case, an opionion was stated as fact.

    I asked earlier if it was part of the communication’s director’s job to read this blog, apparently it is, according to what I read on Evelyn’s blog. While they may feel it is nescessary to review what she writes, being that she is a Councilor and is writing from that perspective, I don’t see why that has any relevance to the AC or Temporary Sanity. We are private citizens sharing opionions and having discussions about the Town. That is neither Town business or the business of Staff while on the job. I don’t see anything here that is not already being discussed with friends & neighbours and the folks at the local Tim Horton’s. That’s pretty bizarre. I guess George Orwell is alive and well and apparently living and working in Aurora.

    Luckywife

    • Anonymous said

      Luckywife, does your second paragraph not kind of contradict the first re: the readers’ comments? Maybe I’m misunderstanding your points.

      We’re all not lucky enough to be married to a lawyer.

    • Resident said

      Dear Luckywife,

      I’m not sure how much of the internet you’ve visited but it’s full of peoples thoughts and opinions – for better or for worse – true or untrue people now have the ability to speak their minds, be it ignorance, or deception or truth.

      There have already been many court cases brought forth where people argue that they have been libeled over the internet. Most have lost. The internet is open territory.

      Cheers,

    • Anonymous said

      Oh my, it seems I’ve gotten myself into a quagmire here.

      I don’t want to get into the specifics, the offending post has been removed. I believe it was the right thing to do in this instance. Why? Because something was said about Mr. Ballantyne specifically that HE took offence to. He demanded, through Mr. Cooper, that it be removed. That’s fair. If he were a politician I’d be the first person to tell him to sod off, grow a pair, or feel free to give as good as you get. Whatever. That is not the case. He is an employee of the Town, he is not free to participate in this blog in his capacity as Director of Corporate Communications or by using his own name. It’s not “free” speech to accuse someone of something when they cannot choose to defend themselves or engage you in a debate about it. It’s nasty, it’s wrong and I don’t accept that it is either the spirit or the intention of the AC or it’s participants.

      FYI, I am not married to a lawyer and I sure as hell wouldn’t consider myself all that lucky if I was.

      Luckywife

  15. Anonymous said

    I can’t believe you pulled the comments…

    • Anonymous said

      Yeah, I’m disappointed that you caved. They were, as you say, only opinions, merely ruminations – nothing stated as fact.

      What happened to Free Speech?

    • Richard Johnson said

      We can still have free speech without being sued. I agree with Luckywife on her points as well. That said, we need to chose our words carefully and make sure that opinions are expressed as such.

      There is also enough irrefutable evidence that we do not have to add any additional poison to the delivery. As far as I can see the Mayor will sink herself provided the public is well informed.

    • Fred said

      Dissapointed that the comments were pulled. I take all blog comments as opinion. It’s a blog for pity sake.
      So, in my opinion, I think the blog owner woosed out.

  16. Resident said

    Geez – this is the internet – it’s full of people making comments – It’s completely insane that you’re going to let the town censor comments.

    Why don’t you just give the town (ie the Mayor) administrative privileges…

  17. Anonymous said

    Well, AC, I think Mr. Cooper has us over a barrel on this one. I know exactly what comments he is referring to and in fairness to the staff member, it is best they be removed. Matter closed.

    Next item. To my knowledge, Mr. Hogg has only ever admitted to being a contributor here, not the owner of the blog. From that perspective isn’t Mr. Cooper making an “unsubstantiated and unsupported allegation” ? Has this been confirmed? Just curious, it is not a subject worth debating and it makes no difference to me one way or the other.

    So here is a subject that is worth discussing. Why does a town with a population of less than 60,000 residents need a full time Director of Corporate Communications. I’m not saying we don’t need one, just wondering what the job entails that can fill a 40 hour week. Is reading this blog, or Evelyn Buck’s, on our dime, part of the job?

    Post Script: I like how Mr. Cooper ends his letters, “Kindly govern yourself accordingly.” A threat veiled in civility. Very effective. If he hasn’t trademarked it, I may use it.

    Luckywife

    • Anonymous said

      How is it that they have “us” over a barrel – Do you think this is the first time the legal department has been asked to harass the blogosphere over comments somebody does not like?

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