Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Judge Rules Morris Tried to Silence Her Critics–Ordered to pay $21,000 in Costs for SLAPP Litigation

Posted by auroracitizen on October 22, 2012

Oct 22, 2012 — 2 years after former Aurora Mayor Phyllis Morris sued 3 citizens for defamation — Judge Hawkins issued a judgement against the former Mayor finding that her action was indeed SLAPP litigation (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation).

With this judgement Hawkins also delivered a precedent setting ruling concerning SLAPP litigation by awarding the defendants special enhanced costs as a result of the SLAPP finding.

Judge Hawkins stated Mayor Morris wanted to hit quickly and hard in order to silence her critics sooner rather than later in the weeks leading up to the October 25, 2010 municipal election.

He ruled that in practical terms, the resolution from the town had authorized Morris to commence an action with the town paying her legal fees.

The full decision can be read online. Hawkins decision SLAPP

So we know what Morris is responsible for — but it also begs the question, what responsibility is shared by Councillors MacEachern, Gallo, Gaertner, Granger and Wilson? They voted in favour of this legal action in 2010. They sat in the closed-door meeting where this plot was hatched. They voted in public to fund this lawsuit against private citizens for daring to disagree with their leadership decisions.

Furthermore,  Councillor Ballard joined the team  this term when he — together with Councillors Gallo and Gaertner — voted against Council’s decision to discontinue funding in early 2011. A clear demonstration that even after the public ran Morris out of office with only 20% of the vote — these Councillors still supported her actions.

And where does former Councillor and failed Mayoral candidate Nigel Kean fit in this mess? Well — days after his 3rd failed attempt to become Mayor, during which he campaigned vigorously against Phyllis Morris, he sent an email to Phyllis Morris and Evelina MacEachern providing them with evidence in this matter, stating that he had kept an email from Aug 2008 as he “felt that some day I would need it. The day is now.”

Do these politicians get off scott-free? Do they not share equally in this ruling? Are they without accountability?

Could their collective support for Phyllis Morris be any clearer? Is anyone unclear that they and Morris are cut from the same cloth? Building themselves up by trying to tear others down.

Politics certainly does make strange bedfellows.

At a time when Canadians are increasingly concerned about the impact of bullying behaviours, here in Aurora we have  a judge finding against a politician for using public funds to try to bully citizens into silence — and awarding enhanced costs because of this reprehensible behaviour.

A politician who has consistently been supported in her actions by a wider group of like-minded politicians.

This is a very disturbing situation. Are these the role models we want in our community? We deserve better from all our leaders. Let’s not forget these actions if they ask for our votes again in 2014.

And thank goodness for the people who were prepared to stand up and fight for the rights of all citizens to exercise our right to free speech. It surely cost them  — but we should all be grateful for their steadfast commitment to stand for what is right.

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61 Responses to “Judge Rules Morris Tried to Silence Her Critics–Ordered to pay $21,000 in Costs for SLAPP Litigation”

  1. The ruling has made it onto pages 6 & 7 of Christopher DiArmani’s Rights and Freedoms Bulletin #110 – November 17, 2012 : http://rfb.s3.amazonaws.com/Rights-and-Freedoms-Bulletin-No-110.pdf

  2. Anonymous said

    http://www.lawyersweekly.ca/index.php?section=article&volume=32&number=26&article=2

  3. anonymous said

    I have been thinking about Mr Tyler Barker’s assertion that Aurorans fall into 2 distinct categories, the Hatfields & the McCoys. Perhaps he should step back just a little bit & then form his opinions based on actions & words that he can see & hear for himself. He could start attending or watching Council meetings, if he has not already, and speak to the various Councillors about their individual concerns. By listening, watching body language and following any voting patterns that may exist, he can reach his own conclusions. I think he may find more similarities than differences particularly regarding budget issues. That Hatfield/McCoy analogy is accurate only when certain specific topics are raised. I will not not attempt to provide him with that history – it is all available for him to study. But, until he has done some spade work, his demand that an extreme difference of opinion should simply cease is wasted. Regards

    • anonymous said

      Now, that has got to be the most polite way I have ever seen of someone being told to smarten up!

    • Tyler Barker said

      I was kidding. I have a very good rapport with many counselors in Aurora. I am also the vice chair of the Aurora accessibility advisory committee. Perhaps before suggesting what I should be doing. You could provide your real name. Regards Tyler Barker PS I love having chats with many different people. I am very open to new ideas, cheers

    • anonymous said

      A simple thank-you for the consideration that person showed would have been in order.

    • Just Asking said

      Sure, Tyler. And were you also ” kidding ” when you took a truly ignorant crack at David Heard? I think not. You have shown us your true colours. Nice try but no cigar.

    • Anonymous said

      Pointing out the absurdity of Mr Heard comparing his situation to that of Amanda Todd’s is a “truly ignorant crack”?! I know who I think should issue an apology.

    • Anonymous said

      Do any of you have a clue what David went through as a youth and the steps to recovery?

      I think not.

    • Anonymous said

      1:44, any readers of Mr Heard’s Auroran columns or blog are well aware.

    • Anonymous said

      Poor Tyler. His first foray onto the Citizen & he dismisses his first comment as joking and his second as simply an opinion on the complicated subject of bullying. Sad. Time out, Tyler.

    • Anonymous said

      What is sad, 8:59, is your condescension.

  4. Anonymous said

    I am shocked that there have not been any witty tomes by Mr Watts since this news hit…..

    removes tongue from cheek…..

    • Anonymous said

      There may be … in about a month’s time. He’s been lagging lately with his posts. He slammed the Historical Society about the Aurora Collection a month after he toured it. There was a similar delay in his take on the Chris Ballard/Debora Kelly Twitter conversation over the Town’s Noticeboard newspaper contract

    • anonymous said

      Why would Christopher write about the SLAPP judgement ? He seldom mentions legal matters & it speaks for itself. Mr Sesto generally provides an over-view of such items and a couple of other individuals are doing an excellent job. Or was that just an unprovoked jab as usual?

    • Anonymous said

      What sluggard suddenly appears?

    • anonymous said

      Christopher has a detailed account and comment. You, on the other hand, just sit and whine.

    • It’s nice to be missed.

      No need to wait any longer, it also looks like Eric from Blog Law Blog has also covered the ruling here:

      http://bloglawblog.com/blog/?p=4342

    • Tyler Barker said

      nope. I was not kidding. Just stating that I believe he overreacted with his comments

  5. Anonymous said

    Not only do I think that there should be a full inquiry about how this lawsuit came about, but I think that those who played apart in it should be exposed and held to account. The two councillors who voted in support of it who still occupy seats at the council table claimed innocence, ignorance and lack of foresight and understanding of potential consequences when awkward questions were first raised about why they decided to support a lawsuit against 3 Aurora citizens.
    My questions to them would have been then and still are, “Why didn’t you ask questions to gain insight and full understanding BEFORE you voted? What the hell were you doing at my town’s council table when this matter was discussed; sleeping on the job? Why did you not do do due diligence on behalf of we, the people you supposedly represented, including the 3 plaintiffs, about a matter that had the potential to drain public coffers, which we fill? What have you done since, and what do you continue to do to ensure that this situation never happens again?”
    In addition I would ask the 3 current councillors who voted against terminating the flow of funds from taxpayers’ pockets into the ex-mayors legal fees, “Why did you think that our money could and should be spent so irresponsibly? How do you reach decisions now about how our money should be spent?”
    I want answers!

    • Anonymous said

      I’d like to know why Elizabeth Bishenden settled. I heard an unsettling rumour.

    • anonymous said

      10:20 PM
      Are you truly speculating on ‘ an unsettling rumour ‘ ? Shame on you! Elizabeth is probably free now to discuss detail.s. If she choses not to do so, that is her business. MYOB

  6. Anonymous said

    From Evelyn Buck’s Blog:

    Restorative Justice Week.

    A PROCLAMATION issued by the now disgraced former mayor calling for a “moment of silence and deliberation” published ten days after she commenced her SLAPP litigation.

    Is this really neat, or what?

  7. Anonymous said

    Surprised to see no coverage of this ruling on Yorkregion.com. Actually, after seeing the tweets from Clownclir Ballard and Metroland editor Debora Kelly, no I’m not.

  8. Tyler Barker said

    at excuse me yes I know the Hatfields and the McCoys were armed my context was if you were seen talking to either side you are assumed to be on one side cheers Tyler

  9. Anonymous said

    I am thrilled that the judge deemed the ex-mayor’s lawsuit as a SLAPP suit. I am thrilled that the 3 citizens of Aurora who were targeted may now enjoy a degree of vindication although, I am sure, no judgements or amount of money can compensate for the emotional toll this all must have taken on them and their families.
    I have felt from the start that those councillors who supported this plot in camera are equally guilty of this heinous offence. All of them have claimed to be ignorant of the possibility that it would result in a lawsuit against town citizens. I say bullshit to them.
    Should those who perpetrated discrimination, racism and murder under the Nazi regime,claiming a defence of ignorance and simply “following orders”, be considered innocent too? I think, at the very least, the citizens of this town should be provided with an explanation for their complicity in approving this lawsuit. If, as they claim, they “didn’t understand or didn’t know” a lawsuit would be instigated, then I say to them, “What the hell are you doing at my town’s council table and why didn’t you make it your business to understand and know what was going on and what are you doing now to make sure that you never lead us down this path again? I would doubt very much that either Gallo or Gaertner would ever issue an apology considering that they are still sitting high and mighty and present themselves as being beyond reproach but they should be pressed into offering a truthful, full explanation and commentary about what was said and done when and by whom. Afterall they were both present at that meeting and gave their seal of approval. Whether they were re-elected or not is irrelevant. We all have friends and neighbours who will support us no matter what (refer again a reference to the Nazi regime and all those who harboured and abetted offenders).
    I think if they are to be afforded any credibility and wish to be seen as having some integrity by ALL of those they represent (not just their buddies) they should stand up and be counted.

  10. Sprite said

    Mr Heard You have never been ‘guilty’ of anything, not even by association. Please try not to use that term about yourself. You have always been a credit to Aurora, a rallying point around which the town finally got itself together. I heard about you long before I ever saw you. We are the ones who owe you an apology for taking such an endless time to see what was growing in our town. It has to be your decision to leave- it might well be exactly what you require. But be proud of who you are, please. Grow, write, and live a good life.

  11. John Abel said

    Judge Hawkins ruled what was evident all along. SLAPP litigation. An oppressive litigative action launched during Thanksgiving dinner, against unsuspecting residents of Aurora. And to add insult to injury, the legal expenses of this litigation was to be completely funded by the residents themselves with their hard earned tax contributions. Talk about Nero playing the fiddle while Rome was in flames.

    There’s more on this matter coming down the pipe with Mr. Hervey’s Municipal Conflict of Interest action against the former Mayor, coming to a decision soon.

    I refer to a York Region ERA Banner article, written by Jeremy Grimaldi, Dec 30 / 2011, titled ” Former Mayor Drops Lawsuit “. In the article Phyllis Morris states, ” It’s been a huge burden carrying the town’s initiative “.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find that statement downright offensive. Does it not imply that this “town initiative” was a decision carried out in an open public manner. The reality is, all the decisions took place behind closed doors. No one knew.

    The residents need to know the truth. Aurora needs a complete inquiry to set the record straight. A full explanation is due.

    John Abel

    • Anonymous said

      Until these matters cease to be before the courts, there can be no full explanation. Maybe never. Council members are still involved. You are right but you have the cart before the horse.

    • Anonymous said

      A complete inquiry? Unless some sanctions or other punishment could be meted out as a result, I’m not sure it would be warranted. I think we all know what happened and why.

    • Anonymous said

      Mr Abel,
      As a sitting councillor I beleive that your statements here are disengenuois (sorry to the spelling nazis if that is wrong). You should be privy to information within the Town that we the public are not. If you really want to know what happened, you can get that. Coming onto a board like this a preaching that “no one knew” is not correct. People knew, people know now and people in charge (like you) can find out.

    • Kelli Collins said

      Gee I wonder which coucillor wrote the above noted response and as anonymous to boot! Did each 3 of the stooges take turns typing this “running scared” response. Thank god for councillors like you Councillor Abel – the 3 gulity ones may not know what intergrity is, but you certainly do!!!!

    • Anonymous said

      Councillor Abel, If you genuinely wish to know what happened, I would refer you to the FULL report by George Rust d’Eye and the sworn affidavits of the individuals involved in the closed session taken during examination for discovery in Morris’ Conflict of Interest case.

    • Tyler Barker said

      we should put this behind us. There are many, many issues to move forward on counselor able should not be focusing on this. There are many issues like the town’s budget. It feels like the Hatfields and the McCoys in town. If you speak to a Morris supporter you are against another person. If you speak to a Morris detractor you are against Phyllis Morris I found Ms. Morris quite engaging. When I spoke to her that does not mean that I do not think she made mistakes comparing it to Amanda Todd is quite overblown PS I findJohn Abel quite engaging as well. Let us help our fellow neighbor. This has to stop on both sides regards Tyler Barker

    • Anonymous said

      Good grief, Tyler. Read the material. Wherever did you find any connection between herself and Amanda Todd ?
      And you are quite right. The budget should take priority. Welcome to the Citizen but please read carefully and avoid the dead-ends.

    • Tyler Barker said

      hi I was responding to David’s comment that he knew how Amanda Todd felt which I believe is over reacting take care Tyler

    • Excuse Me said

      Tyler Barker. I think that the Hatfields and the McCoys were equally armed and dangerous. Your comparison is invalid when one party controls all the power. Greed does not exist in a vacuum.

    • Anonymous said

      Indeed there should be a full investigation and those who were complicit in their support should be held to account. When will taxpayers see the return of the $55000 they shelled out for the ex-mayor’s legal fees to pursue this crazy suit before this council put a stop to it (with the exception of those who felt that we should continue tocover the whole costs)?

  12. Anonymous said

    We see enough of the vigilante mentality on Cllr Buck’s blog. Bill, everyone knows that you own this blog and congratulations, you won. What would you like us to do with the Gallo and Gaertner now? They were legally re-elected – like it or not. They must appeal to someone’s sensability. Ballard was also elected in a legal election. You can hold a grudge, but that is all. As far as Kean is concerned, he will never resurface as a candidate. If he does, he is more than the fool we though he was.

    • Anonymous said

      We do not have to DO anything to any of them. They have done it to themselves. And Kean is ‘ yesterday’s man ‘
      with a garage full of old signs.

    • Anonymous said

      ” Revenge is a dish best served cold ”
      Anonymous 3:05 PM. I do not believe you can dictate the behaviour or speech of contributors to the Citizen. But you are totally entitled to your opinion.

    • Anonymous said

      Anonymous 5:30pm, I do not beleive that I am dictating anything. Loosen up. This is supposed to be about my opinion, sorry you disagree but that is your opinion.

      Same crap…. different blog

    • Anonymous said

      What a bizarre comment! When I read Evelyn’s Blog, I can clearly see her being hounded 24/7, first thing every morning , throughout the day, & last comment. And you claim to see ” vigilante mentality “?

  13. Paul Sesto said

    Congratulations!

    It was great that Master Hawkins clearly defined this action as SLAPP litigation.

  14. Anonymous said

    I realize that the SLAPP lawsuit is far from over. But could we please pay some attention to Evelyn’s lawsuit against the same collection of bullies. It has dragged on for years and they have refused to co-operate in any way. There has been no effort to settle, just stalling for months. Evelyn needs our help, not just emotional but financial. She is truly in this as a matter of principal . Standing alone. Rooting from the sidelines is fine; it does not pay for lawyers.

    • Anonymous said

      I agree. Evelyn’s lawsuit will drain the Town’s coffers even more as tax payers will have to pay for increased insurance premiums.

    • Anonymous said

      They should simply come to the table after all this time. I would add that I have not been able to figure out if the councillors will be personally liable should an adverse verdict occur. That could be causing the resistance. It is puzzling that the Town cannot contact the insurance company and urge that they move along. Anyone who understands is welcome to explain.

  15. Anonymous said

    Elected officials, whether past or present and now sitting, should be banned for life from seeking elective office in the future for having attempted to stifle their critics by means of a legal action – SLAPP.

    Criticism of elected officials is a right that Canadian citizens have under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    Morris, through her lawsuit, tried to silence some of her critics. She has failed at every major turn over the past two years.

    But it is not enough to ban just her. Those elected officials who voted to support her should also face a life ban.

    We should try and rid our system of those who would suppress our right to freedom of expression.

  16. Anonymous said

    What possible amends can they make at this late date? An apology ?
    Should be an interesting council meeting as that trio continue to pour Aurora money out the door of the town to their cronies.

  17. Matt Maddocks said

    Congratulations to the defendants in this case. Your strength and resolve in this battle has resulted in a landmark ruling and a clear victory, for all, for free speech and our inherent right to criticize and question our leadership and our government.

    I for one will not forget the actions and words from the former mayor and all who supported her, including those who now sadly occupy an honoured seat at our council table.

    Matt Maddocks.

    • David Heard said

      I agree that free speech won out in this landmark case.I followed this closely and wish I had stayed away from the whole scene.
      I was always afraid to tell my story or call the Police for fear of being sued.

      The fact a Town employee was standing right beside me at the Town Park when an ex-councilor almost football tacked me and the staff member was afraid to speak up as a witness, for fear of their job was hard to accept.

      I was guilty by association because I had been speaking to another Clr.and following the blogs.

      I spent many years recovering from the past and these attacks set me back a long ways.I have changed as a person and have returned to feeling less trust, and not part of the community.

      I volunteer to keep my mind busy to try and forget what happened around the Town Park ;one place I loved as a child and feel uncomfortable as an adult.
      I know how Amanda Todd felt…alone,confused,conflicted,ashamed,untrusting,and torn.The difference is I have put up walls and have become defensive like a bully to survive the hurt.

      Now you know what happens to people who struggle to fit in and survive knowing they are different in some way.

      Inclusivity is something every community should strive for.It begins at the top and triggles down from our Governments,Education,Agencies,Families,and into community.

      If this is not a goal of those that have influence then we have dysfunction and chaos.What we have also is people who give up because they cant get out of the quicksand of helplessness.

      Maybe it is time for me to begin a new life in a new community.My apologies to those people I have hurt by my defensive nature and lack of trust.

      At least you know the cost af abuse,bullying,and violence.It changes people and negatively effects communities.I am not proud of who I am and pray others will learn from our mistakes.

    • Anonymous said

      The entire country is talking about bullying. I agree that Morris tried to bully those that opposed her, and they have won.

      I cannot for the life of me understand David Heard’s comments about what happened to him. Of course no names are made sowe have to guess. What does “almost football tacked” mean? I assume you mean tackle… Did this councillor knock you down? If this really happened, why not go to the police? For fear of being sued? The police do an investigation and would only lay a charge if it was warranted. This would not be cause to sue you. And what would they sue you for?

      I have to be honest, for you to equate what happened to you with Amanda Todd makes me a little sick. When was the last time you drank bleach over it?

    • David Heard said

      If you would like to sit down sometime I will tell you my whole story.

      I did not drink bleach but I can say I harmed myself and my family and friends in many ways.

    • Anonymous said

      Isn’t passive aggressiveness a form of bullying?

    • Anonymous said

      8:26 A.M. you admit you have no information & do not understand. Then you quibble about spelling and the actual details of one of the many occasions when David was bullied. It is over & he is trying to move on. You, on the other hand, are making tacky criticism about what a bullied person should or will do. How the F would you know?

    • Anonymous said

      To 11:14 am
      If you ever get past the compulsive labeling of Psych 101, there is an excellent text called Deviance in Society. Unfortunately there is no class or book to teach you empathy.

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