Aurora Citizen

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Archive for the ‘Code of Ethics’ Category

Morris Conflict of Interest Case Continues

Posted by auroracitizen on November 3, 2012

Here is an update on Phyllis Morris’s Legacy as Mayor of Aurora.

Last Friday November 2, 1012, at a few minutes before 11:00 am, the door to Court Room 301 at the Newmarket Courthouse was opened by the Bailiff and those who would attend do so and stake out their seats. The room is far more intimate than the one used for the first day of hearings and Phyllis Morris — together with her die-hard supporters — elects the right hand side where there are more chairs. Among her group were her spouse, her daughter, Catherine Marshall, Guy Poppe, an unidentified woman, and lo and behold sitting Councillors Gaertner and Ballard.

With Gaertner, her appearance is to be expected. She has been an unwavering supporter and blindly followed Morris in all things done.

But what is striking is that Ballard would waste a whole day sitting at the feet of a failed politician and unequivocally declaring his support. After his steadfast refusal to declare his support at the last election — which probably served him well — he has now consistently declared his support for Morris and her failed leadership.

Jill Copeland, lawyer for George Hervey, raised the first order of business. She holds up a document and describes it as the decision handed down on October 22, 2012, by Master Thomas Hawkins, arising from a claim for costs filed by the remaining two defendants in the original defamation suit. Ms. Copeland points out the important conclusion reached by Master Hawkins, namely that the defamation action was in fact SLAPP litigation, whose sole purpose was to intimidate and silence certain critics of the former mayor and in which she was the sole beneficiary of the $6,000,000 sought. She felt it was relevant to this matter as well.

Steven O’Melia, representing Morris, objected quite strongly about allowing this document to be entered as evidence.

Judge Gilmore sided with Ms. Copeland.

The day then began with Mr. O’Melia continuing with his drudging litany of misbehavior by Mr. Hervey.

Mr O’melia quoted extensively from Mr. Hervey’s sworn testimony and from letters to the Editor of the Auroran written by Mr. Hervey. He found it somewhat confusing that Mr. Hervey used the date of March 30, 2011, when the Rust-D’Eye Executive Summary was released by the town, as the date that Mr. Hervey knew for a fact that there had been breaches of a pecuniary nature and hence a conflict — while at the same time disagreeing with other parts of the same document, particularly those that opined that the entire operation of the town was breaking down due to poor staff morale.

In other words he didn’t argue that Morris was not in a conflict — but that the case should not be heard because private citizen Hervey was too late in bringing the matter forward to the courts. In legal circles, this is trying to avoid a judges ruling on the basis of a legal loophole – versus arguing the matter on the basis of whether she was actually in a conflict. An interesting strategy.

After lunch,  Mr. O’Melia continued with his arguments — although now, Mr Poppe is replaced by another long time supporter of Ms Morris — former Councillor Stephen Granger. O’Melia concluded at 3:00 pm. A total of 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Ms. Copeland took the floor and told the judge that she had 13 points that she wished to make. These were all by way of specific reply to arguments put forward by Mr. O’Melia and were in now a summation statement. Ms. Copeland’s presentation was completed with a certain amount of controlled emotion; it reinvigorated the Courtroom  and it certainly held the Judge’s undivided attention.

The matter concluded at 3:30 PM, the Judge thanked Counsel and said she would get at the case as soon as she could, although she had a substantial backlog.

This could be several months.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Conflict of Interest, Integrity, Leadership, Legal | 33 Comments »

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.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Council Watch-Richard Johnson, Integrity, Leadership, Legal | 61 Comments »

Farmers in it up to their ears

Posted by auroracitizen on May 13, 2012

This week saw the genesis of a most bewildering and ill-conceived concept, a Code of Conduct for the Aurora Farmers’ Market.

We in Aurora cannot forget a similarly titled document that was introduced by the former mayor, as part of her “Gold Standard” of democracy and governance. It applied to members of Council and came replete with an Integrity Commissioner.

That gentleman did not last long in his position as he was fired without ceremony when his first decision did not agree with the former’s opinion.

The Aurora Farmers’ Market was created by a municipal By-law passed on April 8, 2003. A copy is attached below for those who wish to read the entire document.

In the By-Law the Town appointed a Market Clerk who effectively administered the market. Lease agreements originally were between the Town on the one hand and the Lessee on the other for operation by the Lessee of a market stall.

At some point the location of the market moved from Temperance Street to its present location in the Town Park.

The Farmers’ Market seems to have acquired a Constitution, exactly when is a matter of some speculation. There was a rumour that former Councillor Granger had drafted one. We don’t know that the copy of the document attached below was his work.

The jam lady, in her capacity as Chair of the Executive Committee of the Aurora Farmers’ Market, has produced a risible bunch of words that purport to be a Code of Conduct for Vendors of the market. Attached below is the only copy we were able to find, and it is with thanks and hopefully the permission of Evelyn Buck.

We will refrain from commenting, other than to say that these words seem to simply demonstrate someone’s heightened sense of ego run berserk.

We would love to have your comments on this latest test of our town’s sanity.

AFM Enabling By-Law 135

AFM Constitution 136

AFM Code of Conduct 137

Posted in Code of Ethics, Community, Community Corner, Community Input, Guest Post, Leadership, Local Business, Politics | 29 Comments »

The Dirty Side of Politics

Posted by auroracitizen on April 21, 2012

Aurora saw the dirty side of Aurora politics poke its head out of its hole again recently. We had hoped that brand of politics had been run out-of-town last election — but alas it continues.

Recently Mayor Dawe made an intemperate remark during a confrontation initiated by Councillor Ballard. Councillor Ballard was making veiled allegations that Mayor Dawe had strong-armed the Aurora Cultural Centre into concessions that Councillor Ballard disagreed with — and Mayor Dawe responded “I have also stopped beating my wife”. Details can be seen in the April 17 issue of The Auroran – page 6.

No doubt — the comment was inappropriate and Mayor Dawe should apologize.

However, what was of equal concern was the additional fall-out of this remark.

In the April 12 issue of The Banner, a Letter to the Editor was published from Evelina MacEachern, former Councillor and recently defeated candidate and vocal supporter of defeated Mayor Phyllis Morris. It was published as an open letter to Mayor Dawe. In the letter, Ms MacEachern takes the Mayor to task for his comments. Was it genuine concern or political opportunism?

It is indeed a strange day when Ms MacEachern can take the high ground regarding language when knowledgeable Council watchers know she drop F-bombs in town hall on a regular basis during her terms as a Councillor. Her language and bullying behaviour was one of the contributing factors to the resignation by former Councillor Grace Marsh and is potentially part of the matters before the courts in the Councillor Buck abuse of power lawsuit against 6 members of last Council.

Knowledgeable Council watchers also know she was the real brains behind much of the political manoeuvring by defeated Mayor Phyllis Morris last term.

So it came as no surprise that her letter was followed up with an email blast — also on April 12 — by defeated Mayor Phyllis Morris which applauded Ms MacEachern for her letter and then tried to align herself with the yellow brick house and the white ribbon campaign. You can see it on Councillors Buck’s blog. Again, was it genuine concern or political opportunism?

Between these 2 people, they caused more pain and suffering by staff and people in our community than possibly any 2 politicians in the history of Aurora. Yet here they are trying to take the moral high ground on this issue.

Then to further demonstrate how dirty politics is in this town, former Councillor, Nigel Kean and also recently defeated mayoralty candidate jumped on their band wagon in the April 17 Auroran adding his own commentary. Surely if these 3 people are all commenting  — it must be genuine concern — not political opportunism?

You may remember the last time these 3 people worked together on anything. It was immediately after the election — where both Morris and Kean were handed stunning defeats — they joined together in Morris’s doomed 6 million dollar lawsuit against 3 Aurora families for comments made anonymously on this blog.

Ballard, MacEachern, Morris and Kean. What a team, selflessly giving to the Town of Aurora with no thought for themselves. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Genuine concern about an inappropriate comment by Mayor Dawe — we think not. If that was really the case, would not a simple email or phone call to express their disappointment have served the ultimate goal of informing Mayor Dawe. Others surely took that option.

No. Instead they choose to try to embarrass and humiliate Mayor Dawe publically. Their standard method of operation.

Political opportunism — you bet!

Jumping on a comment to try to take advantage for political gain and revenge? You simply need to look at the history of the people involved and how they have worked together in the past to accomplish their goals to form your opinion.

We are pretty clear what the intent is. We also believe that while folks in Aurora may have been fooled in 2006 — they weren’t fooled in 2010. And they aren’t fooled now.

Should Mayor Dawe apologize. Absolutely. But he should do it because it is the right thing to do — not because some political opportunists trying to resurrected their failed careers say so. They have no moral basis or credibility to make the case.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Community, Geoff Dawe, Integrity, Leadership | 9 Comments »

Update: Morris Discontinues Lawsuit

Posted by auroracitizen on October 18, 2011

On Oct 17, 2011, almost 1 year to the date after stating a $6,000,000 lawsuit against 3 residents of Aurora, Phyllis Morris has discontinued her lawsuit.

A discontinuance by a plaintiff is exceedingly rare in civil proceedings. In essence, the plaintiff, who has brought the fight to the defendants, admits that he or she no longer wishes to prosecute her claim. Where a plaintiff discontinues a claim, it could be reasonably assumed that they have recognized that their claim was fatally flawed and without merit from the outset.

This discontinuance is a total victory for the defendants, and substantiates and supports the position they took throughout this litigation—that they did nothing wrong.

The discontinuance also ends the Appeals to Judge Brown’s recent rulings — which have now been accepted by Ms. Morris.

It was manifestly unfair that the defendants were put to the time and expense of legal fees at the hands of Ms. Morris, most especially in light of the fact that Ms. Morris used tax dollars to pursue them in what appeared to be a politically motivated attack intended to silence their efforts to hold her government accountable.

It is equally telling that Ms. Morris discontinued the litigation when she was called upon to fund it out of her own pocket rather than use taxpayer funds as initially intended. She was fully prepared to use town resources to support her private lawsuit, at the towns’ sole risk and expense to her sole potential gain, despite the fact that the Town’s Code of Conduct states clearly that “public office is not to be used for personal gain”.

While the defendants, Hogg and Johnson defended their principles with their own funds — Phyllis Morris did not.

Hopefully, there has been a lesson learned from this experience. Freedom of expression is a fundamental democratic right of all Canadians — but it is a right that will be attacked, and will need protection.

Unfortunately, it is another blemish on the good name of Aurora that the defendants were called upon to personally defend this right.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Town Council | 33 Comments »

Morris Lawsuit Keeps Aurora (and herself) in the Public Eye

Posted by auroracitizen on August 21, 2011

One of the many definitions of irony is “incongruity between what is expected to be and what actually is, or a situation or result showing such incongruity”. Truly the Phyllis Morris lawsuit is a perfect definition of irony.

Her alleged reason for beginning this lawsuit was because anonymous blog comments subjected her to “ridicule, hatred and contempt.”

However, in truth, it appears her own actions have damaged her reputation — well outside the boundaries of fair Aurora — far more than anything written in any local blog or newspaper.

Here’s another example of the coverage our former Mayor is generating for herself and our town.

Court of Public Opinion Renders Verdict in Phyllis Morris case: Guilty of Gross Stupidity

Phyllis Morris has gained a lot of notoriety since she lost her re-election bid to keep her job as mayor of Aurora, Ontario.  It was during that election that she got just a little too big for her own britches and started suing anyone and everyone who was related to a couple of blog posts she didn’t like. Read More

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Media | 7 Comments »

Aurora and our Alleged Defamation Case Has Been the Subject of Considerable Debate

Posted by auroracitizen on August 16, 2011

More pundits are weighing in on the important subject — and they have consistently agreed with decision of the courts. This is reflected both in the media and with the numerous legal experts/commentators who have commented.

When it comes to political speech, freedom to express your opinion is paramount.

Generally it is accepted that making a defamatory comment about a politicians personal life seems to be widely accepted as out-of-bounds.

However, expressing a dissenting opinion about the conduct or actions of a politician is a right that needs to be protected.

Consider — the folks who have been named in the lawsuit and have been forced to finance the protection of their own good names and protect the rights of all Canadians to speak openly without fear of retaliation have themselves been attacked. Yet, when former Mayor Phyllis Morris launched a lawsuit, they were not accused of making any defamatory comments themselves.

Former Mayor Phyllis Morris just “thinks” they know who the anonymous posters are. And she turned the financial might of the Town of Aurora against 3 private citizens. Citizens just like you. Imagine if it was you who disagreed with former Mayor Morris.

But rather than buckling under, they have stood firm in their belief that Canadians have a right to criticize politicians. It’s part of our democracy — something many of our parents have fought and died for. Something worth fighting for again – this time in a Canadian court room — at personal expense

Here are a few more articles

Innovation Law Blog, University of Toronto
The Innovation Law Blog is an intellectual property and technology blog produced by the Centre for Innovation Law and Policy and the University of Toronto Technology and Intellectual Property Group (TIP Group). The blog features weekly editorials by University of Toronto law students and frequent pointers to news and outside commentary on intellectual property and related subjects.

This comparative is very interesting since it starts to demonstrates the difference in law between a comment that is truly defamatory — or simply hurts the feelings of a politician. A key difference many Morris supporters fail to acknowledge.

Centre for Innovation Law and Policy / TIP Group
LINK: http://innovationlawblog.org/2011/08/the-legality-of-online-anonymity-two-cases/

Striking a legal balance in anonymous online postings
Ontario court tackles free speech versus defamation, By Michael Geist, Ottawa Citizen Special

In this article, published in the Ottawa Sun and Montreal Gazette, the author makes the argument that before demanding that names be released, the onus is on the plaintiff to actually make a case that the posts were defamatory.

The court was therefore not asked to determine whether the posts at issue were in fact defamatory. Rather, it simply faced the question of whether it should order the disclosure of personal information about the posters themselves so that Morris could proceed with a defamation lawsuit.

The court rightly identified the core question as balancing “the competing interests of privacy, the public interest in promoting the administration of justice by providing the Plaintiff with the information sought to pursue her claim and the underlying values of freedom of expression and political speech.”

Moreover, the court emphasized that the posts involved political speech, which is particularly deserving of protection.

http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/internet/Striking%20legal%20balance%20anonymous%20online%20postings/5193062/story.html

ARMA International, Association focused on Records Management, Information Technology and Information Security

In this blog, referring to the Gazette articles they commented.

The Ontario Superior Court ruling in the case of Phyllis Morris vs. auroracitizen.ca provided a reminder of the value of court oversight in cases seeking the disclosure of personal information.

They also provided a good definition of what constitutes a prima facie case — something that is essential to understanding the decision.

It ruled that since Morris did not identify the specific defamatory words, she failed to establish a prima facie case [according to Law.com, a case in which “the evidence before trial is sufficient to prove the case unless there is substantial contradictory evidence presented at trial”] of defamation.

In plain English — that means Morris never established that she had actually been defamed. She just wanted names.

Had she proven defamation — they matter might have been different — but she neither stated what she felt had defamed her, nor did she actually provide any supporting evidence herself. Instead she let former Aurora staff member solicitor Christopher Cooper be the only person to provide any statement of any kind.

Read more: http://www.arma.org/policy/policy/canadianpolicybrief/11-08-10/Former_Mayor_Fights_for_Disclosure_of_Personal_Information.aspx

Phyllis Morris would like everyone to believe that she was defamed. That has never been proven. Nor has she even pled the words (as noted in the recent decision)

Phyllis Morris would like people to believe that the 3 defendants are bad people — yet this lawsuit was launched without even alleging that they had made any for the defamatory postings.

This case will be very important in establishing internet law for political postings and clearly people across the country are watching. It is unfortunate that 3 local citizens have been forced to fund this ground-breaking defence of our democratic right to free speech against a politician who was prepared to use town funds — your taxes hard at work — to fight this battle.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Media | 4 Comments »

More Media Coverage

Posted by auroracitizen on July 31, 2011

Court grapples with legalities of anonymous online postings
Michael Geist, Internet law Columnist, Sunday July 31, 2011, Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1032104–geist-court-grapples-with-legalities-of-anonymous-online-postings

Posted in Code of Ethics, Election 2010, Integrity, Leadership, Legal | 1 Comment »

Morris Launches Appeal

Posted by auroracitizen on July 30, 2011

We received word yesterday that Morris and her legal team have officially submitted the paperwork in support of their appeal.

The primary basis for their appeal is that it conflicts with the original Spence decision. Of interest, many legal pundits would suggest that Spence was the one who got it wrong.

Does this mean that if the Brown judgment is upheld — that Morris will concede that Spence was wrong?

October 27 appears to be the date Morris will ask the courts to hear her appeal — if they agree, then the actual appeal will be heard at a later date.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal | 3 Comments »

CCLA Publishes Court Findings

Posted by auroracitizen on July 28, 2011

LINK: http://ccla.org/2011/07/25/ontario-court-protects-political-speech-and-internet-anonymity/

Ontario Court Protects Political Speech and Internet Anonymity

July 25th, 2011

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently issued a decision on a motion brought by the former mayor of the municipality of Aurora.  The former mayor has sued some of her former constituents for defamation based on comments posted on a local Aurora blog which are critical of her work in office.

As part of her lawsuit, she brought a motion asking the Court to order the known parties to reveal identifying information about an anonymous blogger(s).  The CCLA intervened in this case to argue that a high threshold should be met before the Court should order the release of this kind of information.  The Court should pay particular attention to whether there is a prima facie case of defamation established (i.e. whether, on the surface, a case of defamation can be made out), and should weigh and balance the concerns about freedom of expression and privacy with the interests in obtaining disclosure.  CCLA argued that the rights of citizens to comment on and criticize the performance of their public officials is crucial in a democracy, and civil defamation suits should not be used as a means of silencing this kind of expression.

The Superior Court has found that the former mayor is not entitled to the identifying information she was seeking because she had not established a prima facie case of defamation.  The former mayor had not laid out the particular statements she alleged were defamatory and, as a result, the Court held that they could not determine whether her case was, on its surface, sufficient to establish defamation.  The Court also noted that the bloggers in this case had a reasonable expectation of anonymity since they did not have to identify themselves in order to participate in the blog.  The CCLA is pleased that the Court has taken the concerns of privacy and political speech seriously.

Read the CCLA’s factum here.

Read the Superior Court’s decision here.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal | Leave a Comment »

 
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