Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Will Taxpayers be Forced to Pay For Mayor Morris Poor Judgement

Posted by auroracitizen on December 12, 2009

Buck launches $5.25M lawsuit suit against councillors

 The Banner, Aurora, December 10, 2009

BY SEAN PEARCE

Evelyn Buck has launched a $5.25-million civil lawsuit against Aurora Mayor Phyllis Morris and five fellow councillors in the latest salvo following their filing of a code of conduct complaint against her last July.

Mayor Morris, Evelina MacEachern, Wendy Gaertner, Stephen Granger, John Gallo and Al Wilson are also named in a statement of claim stemming from an advertisement, entitled Statement From Town of Aurora Council, which was published in The Banner and another local newspaper last July.

The Banner is also named in the lawsuit.

The ad contained a statement from Town of Aurora Council regarding its review of Councillor Buck’s weblog entries and its decision to file a formal complaint against her based on those postings with then-integrity commissioner David Nitkin.

The lengthy statement of claim filed by Richmond Hill law firm MacDonald Associates seeks $1 million for “misfeasance in public office and abuse of power, conspiracy, intentional infliction of mental suffering, injurious falsehood, breach of confidence and breach of privacy” and another $1 million for “infringement or breach of (Ms Buck’s) charter rights and freedoms”.

Beyond that, $2 million is sought for defamation, $1 million in punitive damages and $250,000 in aggravated damages.

None of the allegations contained within the statement of claim have been proven in court.

The Banner and the Auroran, which also published the town ad, were initially named in a notice of intended action filed in September. The Banner consequently ran a notice to readers regarding the ad at the request of Ms Buck’s lawyer. Despite that, the newspaper is also being sued now, while the Auroran, which didn’t run a notice or apology, has been removed as a defendant on the latest legal documents.

“I saw the newspaper did publish something, but I’m not sure why that wasn’t acceptable,” Ms Buck said. “I’ll leave it for the lawyer to say.”

Ms Buck said the lawsuit is about principle, not money.

“The reason I’m doing this is that people can’t do things like that to another person in this country,” Ms Buck said. “You cannot publish damaging statements about another human being in Canada. You may have freedom of speech, but you cannot spend money to publish damaging accusations about another person. You can’t go about it the way they did.”

Mayor Morris would not comment, saying only she has been advised by the town’s insurance company not to comment.

Town solicitor Christopher Cooper refused to confirm if the town would cover the legal costs of the six councillors named in the civil suit. However, a town statement issued on behalf of Mrs. Morris and the five councillors states, “The remarks complained of were part of a notice to town residents, speaking to the integrity of our hard-working staff and our concern that they were being treated unfairly.

“These remarks were posted on our website in July 2009 and only now, at the end of November, have we finally been served with a statement of claim that repeats the allegations made in the Toronto Star (on Oct. 30). We are currently reviewing the statement of claim and look forward to defending ourselves and our staff vigorously. We are confident that we will show that the claims made in the lawsuit are entirely without merit.”

Ms Buck has said her intention is to sue the six councillors as individuals and not the town itself.

Lawyer Kevin MacDonald of MacDonald Associates was unavailable for comment.

Ms Buck said she has received unsolicited cheques and cash to help with legal costs, being tracked by former Aurora councillor Grace Marsh in a litigation account.

According to Mrs. Marsh, more than $3,500 has been donated by about 25 donors.

Any excess funds will be donated to a local charity, Ms Buck said, adding, “I’ve spent more at this point than I’ve received.”

Note: Highlighting added by Aurora Citizen

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12 Responses to “Will Taxpayers be Forced to Pay For Mayor Morris Poor Judgement”

  1. Something Fishy in Aurora said

    The answer to this question…is Yes.

    http://www.yorkregion.com/News/Aurora/article/100739

    December 17, 2009 10:18 AM

    BY SEAN PEARCE

    The six members of Aurora council named in Evelyn Buck’s $5.25-million civil libel lawsuit will have the town’s insurance cover their legal costs, The Banner has learned.
    Ms Buck has repeatedly stated her intent is to sue the six members of council as individuals and not the town.

    However, Ms MacEachern said that may prove difficult as the town’s insurer is paying for the councillors’ defence.

    “She’s suing six members of council for taking steps in good faith and for representing the town,” Ms MacEachern said, adding, in effect, she is suing the town.

    “We are insured. This is through the town’s insurance.”

    Beyond that, Ms MacEachern defended the actions of council in its handling of the formal code of conduct complaint.

    “We took the steps that were recommended to us with respect to the comments that Councillor Buck was making against staff and we took the steps to defend town staff, the corporation and the public interest,” Ms MacEachern said.

    “We look forward to defending the steps we took and I look forward to the statement of defence being filed by the solicitor.”

    Earlier this month, Mayor Phyllis Morris, along with Councillors Evelina MacEachern, Wendy Gaertner, Stephen Granger, John Gallo and Al Wilson, were named in a statement of claim stemming from an advertisement entitled Statement From Town of Aurora Council, published in The Banner and another newspaper in July.

    The ad in question outlined the reasons why the majority of council reviewed Ms Buck’s blog and filed a formal code of conduct complaint based on those postings with the then-integrity commissioner David Nitkin.

    The statement of claim filed by Richmond Hill law firm MacDonald Associates seeks $1 million for “misfeasance in public office and abuse of power, conspiracy, intentional infliction of mental suffering, injurious falsehood, breach of confidence and breach of privacy” and another $1 million for “infringement or breach of (Ms Buck’s) charter rights and freedoms”.

    Beyond that, $2 million is sought for defamation, $1 million in punitive damages and $250,000 in aggravated damages.

    The Banner is also named in the lawsuit.

    None of the allegations contained within the statement of claim have been proven in court. Defences have not been filed.

    For her part, Ms Buck said she intends to continue her legal action regardless of who ends up funding the defence.

    “It changes nothing,” she said. “It’s not for me to know who’s covering their defence costs.”

    Ms Buck said she remains firm in her resolve to follow through with the suit against the six members of council as individuals. Should the town become involved as a result of that, it will not be because of her actions, she added.

    “I will not concern myself with that until further along the line, because I didn’t take this step lightly,” Ms Buck said. “I’m not wavering and I’m not alone.”

    Lawyer Kevin MacDonald of MacDonald Associates was unavailable for comment.

    Also named as a defendant in the suit, Mr. Granger declined to comment and directed media inquiries to the mayor.

    Mayor Morris would not comment on the matter, saying only that she has been advised by the town’s insurance company not to say anything.

    However, a statement issued on behalf of Mrs. Morris and the five councillors states, “The remarks complained of were part of a notice to town residents, speaking to the integrity of our hard-working staff and our concern that they were being treated unfairly.

    “These remarks were posted on our website in July 2009 and only now, at the end of November, have we finally been served with a statement of claim that repeats the allegations made in the Toronto Star (on Oct. 30).

    “We are currently reviewing the statement of claim and look forward to defending ourselves and our staff vigorously. We are confident that we will show that the claims made in the lawsuit are entirely without merit.”

    • Anonymous said

      Of course Grainger couldn’t answer. Morris wasn’t there to move his lips as she fed him an answer.

  2. Anna said

    So what happens if Morris does not have personal insurance, and town will not cover the expenses – jail time, lol????

  3. augustinius said

    This is my first appearance on this site, so I’m getting my courage up for the big leap. Stand back so you don’t get wet.

    This is a very worthy effort by all of you and I hope that not only are more people attracted to Aurora Citizen, but that they also perform their civic duty and vote next year.

  4. Anonymous said

    What does this have to do with the Town’s Insurance Company? The Town of Aurora did not do this, the six idiots on council did and they need to be held accountable for their own actions. They should be providing their own counsel for this action out of their own pockets. I think the taxpayers of the Town of Aurora have covered enough mundane costs for legal representatives and an integrity commissioner to endorse Phyllis’s misconception that she is the “almighty power and the glory”. Costs that are mostly totally and completely unneeded I might add.

    How do we make sure that the town accepts no financial responsibility to defend these morons? Do we need to go to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and begin a petition for this as well. I will be damned if I will be held accountable in my taxes to defend the undefendable.

    Talk about fair budgeting where does this fall into the equation? A job well done, yet again, to the credit of Morris and her minions!

  5. Not Surprised said

    Phyllis can claim ignorance because in fact she is ignorant and to the detriment of this town. I say damn the torpedos and full speed ahead. Councillor Buck you are on the right track and will set the tone for any council in the future. Good on you I hope all turns out well for your endeavour to hold elected officials accountable for their actions here, now and forever. Merry Christmas!

  6. fed up said

    A very close friend of mine was the principal of a very prominent elementary school in this town. If this principal posted the kind of nasty comments on the school website about school staff that Morris posted on the town website about town staff, then this principal would have lost the principalship and faced countless lawsuits from the teacher’s federation. Morris must face the music and be driven from this town physically and politically ASAP.

  7. KB said

    It isn’t the Corporation of the Town of Aurora that defamed Ms. Buck, it was our Mayor and her loyal Posse. Therefore Ms. Morris and her band of followers should be held liable, not the corporation! Don’t make the accusations if your not willing to be accountibile for your actions/statements. I hope Phyllis and her posse finally realize that a simple apology could have saved them a lot of money and a lot of grief. Hopefully they have personal insurance- because the citizens didn’t cause this suit – their arrogance did!
    Just add this to their already long list, of unnecessary, incredibily arrogant actions.Besure to remember all of this in Novemeber 2010, when they’re trying to convince us how wonderful they are and all the great things they’ve done for us. Yeah, right!
    Ms. Buck,may I suggest, use the monies you’re about to get for some worthwhile project that will be of value to the Town- that way at least one good thing will have been accomplished over the past 4 year term

  8. Anon. said

    “initially named in a notice of intended action filed in September.”

    Could they have simply apologized then?

    I can understand that these things take time, but this article makes it sound like this was the first Morris heard of it.

    • Richard Johnson said

      To Anon, Dec. 12, 3:39

      The answer to your question is “yes”. Had the GOS apologized and removed the offending material from the town’s website there is a very good chance that there would be no ongoing legal battle and no accompanying legal fees. That is why the legal process for suing is set up the way it is; the process allows for dispute resolutions to take place before taking formal legal action and the Mayor was given the opportunity to remedy the situation before further legal action was taken.

      That said, it is unlikely that the Mayor would ever have backed down, even in the face of any evidence that did not support her case. Phyllis is a politically motivated and as far as I am concerned she sees only what she wants to see.I’m sure she sees herself as a strong leader of all things good and light but all too often the facts seem to suggest otherwise.

  9. fed up said

    Can anyone run for public office if there is a civil lawsuit against them pending? If they can’t, sure will make next November’s election interesting.

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