Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Councillors Using Town Funds to Fight Personal Lawsuit

Posted by auroracitizen on December 18, 2009

Councillors using town insurer to cover defence of Buck suit

The Banner – Aurora , December 17, 2009

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.”

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18 Responses to “Councillors Using Town Funds to Fight Personal Lawsuit”

  1. evelyn.buck@rogers.com said

    Robert the Bruce is offended by a statement I made. Why should that surprise me?

    Any politician who can’t hold their own in a political arena is not worth their salt.

    When they turn to lawyers at taxpaeyers’ expense,the field is no lenger even. They took the game to the realm of the law.

    The Bruce seems to have missed that play.

    Why does that not surprise me either?

    • Robert the Bruce said

      You should not be surprised that I am offended by a comment that you made that is 180 degrees opposite of the pulpit you continually preach from – that being fiscal responsibility for the tax payers of this community. You are worried about items added to the budget for various groups but out of the other side of your mouth you declare that you do not care that a Town insurance policy will pay for the defence of the council members that YOU are suing and that policy and the subsequent increase of premiums is and will be borne by those same tax payers you say you are looking out for!

      You’re right, if you can’t hold your own in the political arena you’re not worth their salt. You are the one that has taken the steps outside of the political arena. Like it or not (and for the record – I do not); the integrity complaint and subsequent public posting was done within the Town’s rules and authorizations. They DID NOT take the game to the law. The IC was a paid Town contractor. The Intregity Code is a legal Town document. There was no lawsuit brought against you. As a Town council member, everything you do in regards to that position is in the “Realm of the Law”!

      I don’t think I missed anything, so no surprise there. A lot of people of this blog – and yours – seem to miss the hypocrosy that you are doing something to cause Town tax dollars to be wasted while you worry about saving those same tax payers a few thousand dollars for a tree park.

      Yes, Morris and her group did the wrong thing. Yes, they are still doing the wrong thing (not taking down the web posting). But that does not excuse Councillor Buck for being the sole contributor to wasting tax money on frivilous lawsuits.

      Fuimmus

    • Elizabeth Bishenden said

      Town Council and its activities are not entirely political. There are laws that govern the way Council may act and the way individual councillors must act.

      Those laws are not set up to be sure that everyone is as tough as possible, or to ensure that the greatest economy of taxes is achieved. Those laws have been enacted to ensure that democratic debate is the foundation of decision making by the elected officials. There are times when a politician has to take the problem out of the political arena to ensure that the council has acted legally.

      RtB, don’t you think that doing “the wrong thing” is something that is a problem in a democracy?

      In my opinion, one of the best uses of taxes is to ensure that every citizen has a voice and representation.

    • Bucking the trend said

      Mr.Bruce
      You do really need to go back to the beginning and look at the facts .
      You are not related to The Mayor are you ?
      You seem to be very intelligent especially when it comes to spin .

    • Anonymous said

      Who is this oh so righteous Robert the Bruce? Will he be so noble as to throw his hat into the political ring? Can he do this town the justice it so rightfully deserves?

      The Town of Aurora has insurance coverage, you are correct when you stated in your response of December 20th, the Insurance Company is not the judge and jury but as stated by White Knight on December 20, 2009 at 5:36 pm
      “In my professional field I have seen lawsuits brought against employees who were defended by the employer’s insurance. However, once it was determined that the employee was in fact at fault, the employer sued the employee (successfully) to recoup its losses covered by insurance.
      If the GOS are found to be at fault, I would guess that the corporation and/or insurance company has the right to sue each of them personally for its cost of defending them in the first place.”

      My response to the above statement is that we will have to wait and see won’t we? Why put the cart before the horse?

      I take exception to the tone of your reply on this blog, you obviously dislike the Councillor you have made that quite clear in this posting and in others. You have a right to your opinion, after all this is what this blog is about, however, I don’t have to agree with you and in my opinion you are not contributing to the good of the town and Councillor Buck is and always has put this town first!

      Quite frankly, I believe the issue should be dealt with in a court of law, it was put in the realm of the law on the eve of May 12th, and subsequently on May 26th when the minutes did not reflect what was televised, they were in fact doctored. The legal question really is not who is paying the legal fees, but is once again a matter of FACT. Maybe you don’t see it that way but I do.

      Councillor Buck is doing what every citizen of this earth has a right to do and that is to protect their personal interest whether in private or public debate. No one has a right to defame anyone and we are protected by Human Rights that are most relevant in the majority of our glorious world.

      And with that, Robert the Bruce, I will now sit back and await the crap you will undoubtly heap on my broad shoulders.

    • Anonymous said

      To R the B,
      Councillor Buck is the victim, whether you like it or not.
      Morris and her band of bounty hunters tried to have Buck disgraced, but their own Integrity Commissioner said there was nothing wrong with what Buck did.
      How dare you try to turn the tables on Buck.She is far from an angel but she did nothing wrong, other than take on Morris and her groupies and prove them wrong. Morris should apologize for the attack on Buck.

    • Knowledgeable in Aurora said

      To R the B:
      Morris has been using the threat of litigation against everyone around her, since the beginning of this term. She has abused internal legal staff and spent thousands of tax dollars on external legal use since elected. No one will ever get an accurate accounting of the time and money she has wasted in her frivilous legal persuits. Just ask Tim Jones. Good on Evelyn for finally turning the tables.

  2. White Knight said

    What I STILL fail to understand is how motor mouth Morris, Evilina and dripstick Gaertner were not sued for the way they constantly disrespected staff (the ones who have since left, retired or were fired). You only have to watch the videos of council meetings during that period to see the evidence. Talk about double standards!

    • Thanks will be Given come October said

      Without delving back into what should be ancient history by now, I was under the impression that Councillor Buck was not complaining about wrongs committed by staff.

      Was not the question more about the difference between what was said and seen during the council meeting that was televised for all to witness, and what ended up being recorded in the minutes. Reading between the lines in her blog, if staff ‘adjusted’ the minutes, it was because they had no choice but to do so.

    • Reality is said

      It goes further than that .
      It was actually , I believe ,when she asked about “The Dream Team “and “July First Parade ” clashing when it came to fund raising .
      It was after that the minutes and video clashing became an issue when Sher lost it trying to deflect the issue possibly .
      It was the question that started it all .
      That question was never answered and is hidden in the “smoke and mirrors “.

  3. Not Surprised said

    While some see fit to once again put the blame on the head of Councillor Buck, why don’t you ask is the insurance company actually going to cover the cost of the defence or is it simply going to review the case and then decide what to do? You don’t know any better than I do, whether or not the insurance company is going to defend them.

    When it comes to the point of submitting the documentation that is suppose to justify what the GOS accuses Councillor Buck of doing, will come as a great surprise to me if in fact there is any existing documentation that provides justification of their actions and the information will be sought after by the insurance company you can rest assured.

    So instead of once again heaping the crap on Councillor Buck why don’t we just wait and see what actually happens.

    • Robert the Bruce said

      To: Not Surprised,

      The insurance company is not the judge of the case. They carry a policy to defend councillors against lawsuits. It is not their job to determine guilt or innocence. They will do what the policy says that they will do.

      I am “heaping crap” on her because she continually states that she is all about saving the tax payers money (or using the money wisly) and now, given the message that the Town’s insurance is going to defend the accused against her she says that she does not care. Well, I care and I think she needs to give her head a shake!

      Fuimus

    • Not Surprised said

      I understand that the insurance company is not the judge, do you understand what the premise is? Councillor Buck did not state that she did not care, she just stated that payment of the defence is not her concern, at the moment.

      As is the fact, when the case is heard before the Court, the defendants may not be elected officials of the Corporation of the Town of Aurora, however, if they are found guilty, and who’s to say they won’t be, at what point are they to be held accountable for their own legal fees.

      I suggest to you my good man that you wait and see before casting stones.

      One more thing, Councillor Buck is a resident of Aurora and pays taxes as you do, what makes you think for a second that she wants to pay their legal fees? In essence, she is potentially paying twice, think about that for a minute!

      Do you think that she is content with that? I highly doubt it.

  4. Positive 2010 said

    Integrity tells me to support “The Buckster “all the way .

  5. Robert the Bruce said

    I thought that this is exactly what would happen. While I agree that Ms. Buck’s name was somewhat soiled by the initial incident, I have not supported her choice of a law suit.

    She continually posts on this blog, her own blog and in the Letters to the Editor about how she is looking out for the tax payer and making sure that Town money is not mis-used; and now she has entered into a situation where Town money will be used to defend an action against councillors. Her legal action is 180 degrees opposite of her campaign promises. Her quotes in this article are down-right offensive to me.

    As with other insurance claims, your cost of insurance goes up after you make a claim. No doubt it is too late for an increase to be accessed on the Town.

    Fuimus

    • Tim the Enchanter said

      Too right RtB.
      How much do ya wanna bet that the same folks that can’t for the life of them come up with an accurate accounting of legal fees incurred by the town to stifle councillor Buck will know to the last penny how much her legal response will cost us?
      Don’t be surprised to see teary-eyed announcements to cancel worthy programs (probably involving children, preferably sick ones) because sadly the money was used to defend hard-working town staff from EB’s spurious accusations.
      With this endless crap going on a 38% voter turnout isn’t pathetic – it’s a miracle.

    • White Knight said

      In my professional field I have seen lawsuits brought against employees who were defended by the employer’s insurance. However, once it was determined that the employee was in fact at fault, the employer sued the employee (successfully) to recoup its losses covered by insurance.
      If the GOS are found to be at fault, I would guess that the corporation and/or insurance company has the right to sue each of them personally for its cost of defending them in the first place.

    • Richard Johnson said

      The alternative would be for Evelyn to just let Phyllis and her band of followers get away with waging their own slanted legal battle at the town’s expense while they turn a blind eye to some of their own actions.

      This legal fiasco looks to me to be a case of reaping the results of “living by the sword” and there is no doubt that what is good (or bad) for the goose is good (or bad) for the gander.

      Phyllis set the tone and I think that the recently fired Integrity Commissioner did a rather good job of assessing the reality of the situation. Sadly, Phyllis also went after his professional credentials as well, however she was only partially silenced by a cease and desist order.

      I don’t agree with Evelyn on a number of things but I fully support her right to free speech and her right to defend herself against the malicious actions of others.

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