Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category

Resolution

Posted by auroracitizen on May 12, 2013

The final outcome of the Phyllis Morris SLAPP Lawsuit — which Councillor Ballard, Gaertner and Gallo still seem to be trying to pretend didn’t actually happen.

Here is the letter that was sent by the Town to follow up the published apology in the newspaper.

Town Apology Letter

Here is a link to the newspaper ad; Apology ad_7_7

Posted in Election 2010, Leadership, Legal, Politics | 6 Comments »

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 »

When Will We Get A Cultural Centre Update?

Posted by auroracitizen on April 27, 2012

At a Special Council meeting on April 5, 2012, Section 5.1, among others, of the Terms of Reference, was amended to replace two members of Council with two members of Town staff, plus one alternate.

The apparent reason for this amendment is that insofar as the Negotiating Working Group will be meeting in secret, members of Council could not participate. A secret, or closed session that involves elected representatives is only permitted under the Municipal Act in very limited circumstances; the Negotiating Working Group does not qualify.

The above having been said, we are now almost three weeks after the above referenced Special Council meeting. Has there been any public announcement from the Town advising which two members of staff, plus one alternate, have been named to the Group?

Is the composition of the Group just as secret as its deliberations? This does not appear to be typical of our democracy at work.

The Group is only dealing with approximately $500,000 per year of taxpayer money. Is this not a large enough sum to warrant some limited public disclosure?

Has anyone heard any updates?

Posted in Community Corner, Geoff Dawe, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Politics, Town Council | 24 Comments »

Silly Is As Silly Does

Posted by auroracitizen on April 5, 2012

Tonight Councillor Gaertner again demonstrated just how silly she has become.

First, she voiced her opinion that Council was discussing an illegal motion because she felt that the motion of March 28 was contrary to the approved motion from Feb 27. Then, when the Clerk stated that his opinion was that Council was discussing a legal motion — she indicated that she couldn’t vote. She even made a point of stating twice that she hoped the press had heard her.

Yet she continued to stay in the chambers and participated fully in the debate. Then when the vote was called — she leapt from her chair and took 2 steps away — then returned to her chair to vote on the confirming by-law and adjournment. What’s was that supposed to mean?

For someone who seems to be so concerned about following the letter of the rules — surely she also knows that you can’t declare a conflict on a matter unless it is a pecuniary conflict. And furthermore, when you declare a conflict you are required to leave the room.

So what happened to her interpretation of the rules here. The was no conflict and she participated fully in the discussion and was in the chambers during the vote

Since a non vote is considered a “nay”, the Council minutes must show that Councillor Gaertner voted “nay” on the motion.

It will be interesting to see what the record shows.

Hopefully the press saw that as well.

Posted in Community Corner, Geoff Dawe, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Politics, Special Meetings, Town Council | 10 Comments »

Common Sense Returns

Posted by auroracitizen on April 5, 2012

Tonight Council revisited the decisions made in the Aurora Cultural Centre debate and brought some long overdue common sense to the table.

Tonight Council amended their earlier motion to remove politicians from the discussion and now staff will work with the Cultural Centre towards a new agreement — which will then be brought forward to Council for discussion and a decision.

This removes much of the politics from the debate and staff can now look to the Mar report for direction.

Kudos to Councillor Pirri for bringing this motion forward and to most of Council for supporting this motion. Only Councillor Gallo was not in attendance. Of interest was the silliness perpetuated by Councillor Gaertner. See next post for details.

Now let’s look forward to some productive staff-led discussion and a new agreement in place for the start of 2013.

Posted in Community Corner, Geoff Dawe, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Politics, Special Meetings, Town Council | 2 Comments »

Update: Have You Heard the News?

Posted by auroracitizen on April 5, 2012

There is a special meeting tonight (April 5) at 6PM. Because it is a special meeting, it doesn’t require  notice. We have checked the Town website and currently there is nothing indicating a meeting is taking place. Of note, the announcements were updated this morning with a notice of service disruption. But nothing yet about a special meeting.

We found out through Councillor Buck’s blog post “Further Thoughts“. Pity we didn’t find out through the Town.

Councillor Buck indicated that the problems many readers/watchers anticipated are coming true. It will be interesting to see how Council works their way through the mess that has been created.

If you have time, drop by and see the proceedings.

———————————–

Updated @ 11:41 am

The agenda is up, but still nothing on the home page. So if you don’t know there is a meeting — so we guess you will never know until it’s over and published.

According to the  agenda, the focus is to seek Council direction on “Council membership of the ad hoc negotiating working group and the provisions of the Terms of Reference relating thereto” which smells like a reconsideration.

Hopefully when they reconsider they will come up with a plan that makes sense and is not subject to the criticism we have heard thus far about inappropriate closed door and confidential meetings.

There is still time to get this situation back on track. Let’s hope it gets done tonight.

Posted in Community Corner, Geoff Dawe, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Politics, Special Meetings, Town Council | 5 Comments »

Have You Heard The News?

Posted by auroracitizen on April 5, 2012

There is a special meeting tonight (April 5) at 6PM. Because it is a special meeting, it doesn’t require  notice. We have checked the Town website and currently there is nothing indicating a meeting is taking place. Of note, the announcements were updated this morning with a notice of service disruption. But nothing yet about a special meeting.

We found out through Councillor Buck’s blog post “Further Thoughts“. Pity we didn’t find out through the Town.

Councillor Buck indicated that the problems many readers/watchers anticipated are coming true. It will be interesting to see how Council works their way through the mess that has been created.

If you have time, drop by and see the proceedings.

———————————–

Updated @ 11:41 am

The agenda is up, but still nothing on the home page. So if you don’t know there is a meeting — so we guess you will never know until it’s over and published.

According to the  agenda, the focus is to seek Council direction on “Council membership of the ad hoc negotiating working group and the provisions of the Terms of Reference relating thereto” which smells like a reconsideration.

Hopefully when they reconsider they will come up with a plan that makes sense and is not subject to the criticism we have heard thus far about inappropriate closed door and confidential meetings.

There is still time to get this situation back on track. Let’s hope it gets done tonight.

Posted in Community Corner, Geoff Dawe, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Politics, Town Council | 1 Comment »

Auroran Letter Writer Has Some Facts Wrong

Posted by auroracitizen on November 8, 2011

This week, Alex Vander Veen wrote a letter to The Auroran (pg 4) supporting former Mayor Phyllis Morris. That’s his right and we support his right to state his opinion.

However, like many of her supporters, he has some of his facts wrong.

The truth is, Phyllis Morris did not sue anonymous bloggers. They were anonymous — so she didn’t know who they were. Result — the anonymous bloggers never spent 1 thin dime on this lawsuit.

What really happened was that Phyllis Morris sued 3 local families who were required to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend their names and the right for citizens of Auroran to freely criticize their local politicians.

In the end, the courts found no fault in anything they had done and she abandoned her lawsuit.

You may agree that anonymous bloggers should be held accountable for their words.

You may even agree with using your tax dollars to initiate a lawsuit.

But do not for one minute think this lawsuit was about suing anonymous bloggers.

The truth is that the 3 families Phyllis Morris sued were not anonymous bloggers. But they were the target of her attack.

So if you want to defend Phyllis Morris — at least have the courtesy to get the facts straight and admit what she really did.

Phyllis Morris used our tax dollars to launch a lawsuit for her own personal financial benefit and she sued 3 families who had nothing to do with the blog comments she was complaining about.

To carry Mr Vander Veen’s analogy further about schoolyard bullies — this sounds more like a bully who was afraid to fight their own fight — instead they got a gang together to intimidate and bully 3 smaller people — just because they happened to be standing in the schoolyard when snowballs were thrown.

Who’s really the coward?

Posted in Integrity, Legal, Media | 35 Comments »

Legal Precedent Being Established

Posted by auroracitizen on October 24, 2011

Michael Geist is the Internet Law Columnist for the Toronto Star, and we have referred to his writings here before.

His qualifications to comment are impressive. He is a law professor at the University of Ottawa where he holds the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law. He has a Bachelor of Laws degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Master of Laws degrees from Cambridge University in the UK and Columbia Law School in New York, and a Doctorate in Law from Columbia.

He recently commented on the Supreme Court decision around the case on internet linking http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1074612–supreme-court-stands-up-for-the-internet

The are many differences between the Alberta case that went to the Supreme Court and the recent lawsuit here in Aurora, but his final comment was very insightful

Given the connection between freedom of expression and the Internet, the Supreme Court has signaled that it will look with great skepticism at laws that could have a chilling effect on the ability for Canadians to fully participate online.

The decision on the Norwich motion — which by abandoning her appeal signals that Morris has accepted the wisdom of the courts — is equally important in defending Canadians’ ability to participate fully online.

Going forward, when similar lawsuits come before the courts, Phyllis Morris will be referenced as the leading case in this area. She made legal history.

When posting online, a witch hunt is not allowed. As a first step, a real case of defamation must be established before the courts will even consider a request for names to be released. Where the online posts concern political commentary, the court will be even more diligent in ensuring that the plaintiff makes out a real case of defamation.

In the Aurora case, no proof of defamation was made out. It is not simply enough to allege defamation as Morris did — the words themselves must be clear, and capable of a defamatory meaning. The Court held that she never did this — and Ms. Morris has now accepted their ruling.

This lack of proof that there was ever something defamatory said about her, even under a generous reading, was the significant factor on her motion being dismissed.

In fact, even where Ms. Morris could have submitted an affidavit to further explain why she thought the statements she viewed as hurting her reputation were defamatory, she did not do so.

Furthermore, while at least three motions were before the court at various points in the lawsuit, at no time did Phyllis Morris herself actually place any evidence before the court. Not once.

By not submitting an affidavit herself, Mrs. Morris neatly avoided having to answer any questions herself.

Instead, she argued her case in the press, mentioning claims about physical threats.

When push came to shove, Ms. Morris preferred to try her case outside of the Courts.

Now, she has no case to be tried. None whatsoever.

Posted in Legal, Media, Politics | 1 Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 101 other followers