Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Lawsuit Update

Posted by auroracitizen on November 10, 2010

By Sean Pearce | Nov 10, 2010

Lawsuit cites new attacks

The lawyer representing three Aurora residents being sued by outgoing Mayor Phyllis Morris is questioning the relevance of some of the allegations in her statement of claim filed this week.

Among other items, the nine-page statement makes reference to an anonymous comment posted to Mrs. Morris’ YouTube channel Nov. 5 and alleges previously reported defamatory posts on the Aurora Citizen blog incited such remarks, suggesting they will continue unless the behaviour in question is halted immediately.

On the YouTube post, Jordan Goldblatt, the lawyer representing the three named defendants in the case — Richard Johnson, Elizabeth Bishenden and former councillor Bill Hogg — said he fails to see what, if anything, that has to do with his clients.

“There’s no reason why my clients should be held accountable for comments made to a YouTube account over which they have absolutely no control,” he said.

In addition to Mr. Johnson, Ms Bishenden and Mr. Hogg, the statement of claim in the $6-million suit also names three anonymous posters to the Aurora Citizen blog and WordPress, the site’s host.

Beyond the YouTube comment, the statement of claim alleges Mr. Johnson, Ms Bishenden and Mr. Hogg were either moderators of the Aurora Citizen blog or authorized, participated in or encouraged the publication and republishing of defamatory comments.

The document further alleges the three anonymous parties were permitted to make false and defamatory blog postings and comments between the dates of Aug. 24 and Oct. 4, but makes note only of the dates and times of the alleged remarks and does not go into specifics.

The statement of claim also alleges the defendants are already familiar with the offending posts, but can be provided with more details upon request.

“These defamatory posting (sic) are false and defamatory of and concerning the plaintiff and are made with malice by the respective defendants knowing that they were false, or with careless disregard as to whether the defamatory postings were true or not,” the document reads. “As a result of the defamatory postings published by the defendants, the plaintiff has been subjected to ridicule, hatred and contempt and has suffered damage to her reputation in relation to her office, profession, trade and calling as mayor of the Town of Aurora.”

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

The task for the defendants, at this point, will be to determine their next move, Mr. Goldblatt said. A couple of options exist, he said, including a motion to strike, on the grounds a government can not sue its citizens under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or to go ahead and prepare a statement of defence against the plaintiff’s claims.

For his part, Mr. Johnson flat out denies ever having moderated the blog and is of the belief the motivations behind the legal action have more to do with his vocal criticism of Mrs. Morris’ actions and leadership.

As such, it’s not surprising the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has taken an interest in the case and is viewing it as a potential strategic lawsuit against public participation, he said, adding he believes most people would likely reach the same conclusion.

“This whole experience is so incredibly disturbing given that my tax dollars and those of the community are being used along with the town’s resources and expensive outside legal counsel to falsely accuse me of something I did not do,” he said.

“From my perspective, there are numerous questionable aspects of this whole legal action that are not exclusively related to how unjustly both me and my family are being treated. I think it is fair to say that a great many people are being unnecessarily and unjustifiably harmed through the actions of both the town and the mayor.”

Mrs. Morris said she had no comment beyond the statement of claim and referred questions to lawyer Howard Winkler. Mr. Winkler did not return calls for comment by deadline.

At present, there is no court date to deal with the matter, however, a motion seeking to compel the named defendants to reveal the identities of the anonymous contributors will be heard by the courts in January. Mr. Hogg has made clear neither he, nor the other two individual defendants, would have that information as anonymous participants to a blog are, by their very nature, anonymous.

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19 Responses to “Lawsuit Update”

  1. simplydebinaurora said

    Actions speak louder than words!

    I think the fact that Phyllis is using taxpayers money to fund her “PERSONAL” lawsuit shows exactly how she feels about our town and its taxpayers. I use the word “feels” with some apprehension as I’m not sure she really feels anything. It’s quite obvious from her actions that she really doesn’t care about Aurora and shows a total lack of R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the good citizens of this town.

  2. Tim the Enchanter said

    I get the feeling we’re witnessing a legal ‘shuck and jive’ routine from Morris and her ‘Dream team’ until we find out whether or not Mayor-elect Dawe can get council to torpedo Morris’s tax-payer funded financial support.
    I seriously doubt she wants to spend her own money on this.
    In the meantime, you have to figure that every day this pathetic and pointless excercise drags on just serves to drive another nail into any hopes she may have had to return to office – at least in this town – as if the last four years hadn’t done enough damage already.
    I suppose it was overly optimistic to think that Morris and her gang would take the high road and bow out gracefully.
    Shoulda’ known they’d take the scorched earth route.
    Oh well.
    Live ‘n learn.

    • October Came, Thanks were Given said

      Now Tim,

      Let’s give our soon to be departed leader a few marks. Apparently she is slowly withdrawing herself from the public eye. The word around Town Hall is that she has declined to participate in the Aurora Santa Claus parade.

      Too bad, it would have given thousands of citizens lining the route an opportunity to express our feelings about her job performance these last four years.

      Oh well, at least the marching band music won’t be drowned by what would have surely been thunderous applause.

    • Matt Maddocks said

      I would love to express my feelings to Morris at the parade, but I got thinkin’ about the kiddies and all, and well, decided against it.
      If she’s really bowed out of the parade, someone at the North Pole just got a little bit happier tonight…

    • Anonymous said

      The kids might have gotten a charge from a few rotten tomatoes tossed in the direction of our departing mayor.

    • The Real Santa said

      Now that we have the best Santa that ever dawned the Red Coat back in the Parade ,rest assured this does not sit well with the Majesty of la-la Land, Things are looking up already ,lets hope this small flicker of change turns to the roaring fire of life anew in our fair Town

    • Glad Tidings said

      “The word around Town Hall is that she has declined to participate in the Aurora Santa Claus parade.”

      Does that mean that Mayor-elect Dawe will take her place? I hope so.

  3. Kelli said

    With regards to the following quote:

    “As a result of the defamatory postings published by the defendants, the plaintiff has been subjected to ridicule, hatred and contempt and has suffered damage to her reputation in relation to her office, profession, trade and calling as mayor of the Town of Aurora.”

    When will Mayor Morris understand that her reputation, and the reputation of Town Council, and sadly now Aurora to some extent, are a direct result of her unbelievable, unprofessional behaviour, her lack of respect, and her ability to make everything the “Phyllis” show. Believe me the soap opera that is the Town Council Meetings on Rogers TV have given Ms. Morris the visibility for everyone to see what a gong show she and her minions have been, and the mockery they have made of both politics, and sadly our Town.

    The sad fact for this life long Auroran is that I did not know this Web site exsisted until about one month before our most recent election, and my opinion of Morris and Council was formed a couple of years ago, well before these ridiculous allegations that a “blog” has ruined her reputation and as dramatic as she can only be her life!!!! I say get a life Phyllis, you have been a disaster along with Evalina, and the rest of them for a long time now, the best thing you can do for this town is fade away …. maybe buy yourself an island with all of the towns money and take all your clowns with you, build the City of Phyllis and control them far far away!!!!!

    And by the way – I am more thna happy to tell you exactly who I am should you feel the need to sue me or scold for me for the fact that today on rememberance day, I have chosen to use my right as a free Canadian to express my opinions and right to freedom of speech thanks to all of those soldiers past and present!

    • The Majority of Aurorans said

      In today’s edition of The National Post is an article dated November 11, 2010 headlined “Aurora mayor sues bloggers for defamation.”

      A quotation from the article follows: “The Mayor, who lost the election by more than 4,000 votes, believes the online turmoil harmed her bid, Mr. Winkler said.” Mr Winkler is the senior lawyer on the Morris defamation team.

      Obviously the soon-to-be ex-mayor continues to live in la-la land. She lost the election several years ago as a result of her arrogant, ignorant behaviour. Couple this with her profligate expenditure of taxpayer monies for all sorts of wanton projects, from codes of conduct, irrational and losing OMB appeals, consultants’ studies that were shelved and replaced by in-house in-council schemes instead, and one gets a better picture as to why Morris was ousted.

      What is most disturbing about the newspaper article is a quotation attributable to Richard Johnson decrying the use of taxpayer dollars to fund the lawsuit, as follows:

      “It really does strike at the nerve of what I think democracy is all about. It has a chilling effect on my willingness to be involved. When this lawsuit is over, I want nothing to do with my municipal government.”

      The Morris lawsuit is an aberration, not the norm. None of us must permit ourselves to abstain even further than we already do from expressing our honest opinions about those who would or do govern us, at any level. If we do, then the sacrifices made, and remembered yesterday, should rightly haunt us until the end of our days.

      I would ask Richard Johnson to seriously reconsider his apparent decision. He has been an articulate, eloquent champion with his many thoughtful writings, and his absence would be sorely missed.

      We have been forced to write in vigorous opposition to a government that was bad. But we should all remember that we might be moving toward a new administration during which we might find it possible to express opinions of support.

      But we should never abandon our right to criticize.

    • Matt Maddocks said

      Cheers to you Kelli! Great post.

  4. I hope all will work out on the end for you guys!
    This is such a waste of time, and the stress.
    Not to mention that I am too paying for it.
    Anna

  5. Heather Sisman said

    If Phyllis is concerned with comments made on youtube, why doesn’t she disallow comments on her youtube videos?? I can see they’ve been blocked on ONE, but the rest are wiiiiiiiide open for everyone to comment. That’s just silly. I too, fail to see the connection between comments on youtube and comments anywhere else. Google is a powerful search engine – there are 85,000 hits for Aurora Phyllis Morris. How many man hours would it take to review them all, and find out how they all got there?

  6. fed up said

    Report from the Remembrance Day Ceremony–Wendy G finally found out what time the ceremony was and was there on time–big hugs for the Walmer woman, the St. Kitts woman and for the ex mayor–but what was most telling was her disgusting disrespectful behaviour–the park was packed with people paying their respects, but she found it necessary during the wreath laying ceremony to talk to all kinds of people around her–a religious quiet ceremony, even little children were silent but the silence was broken by our illustrious Wendy talking to her neighbours throughout these solemn moments–this woman really has zero class

    • Anonymous said

      Our Wendy never has shown that she has any class, along with the people she was hugging. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

    • fed up said

      i was going to say something to her but “what’s the point?”–she does not realize that during a religious service one is supposed to listen not gossip–wonder if she talks all through the minister’s sermon?

    • Another Anonymous said

      Be seen and be heard…..photo op!

  7. Paul Sesto said

    What kind of a game is this?
    Allegations of “false and defamatory blog postings and comments between the dates of Aug. 24 and Oct 4, but makes note only of the dates and times of the alleged remarks and does not go into specifics”. (Sean Pearce- The Banner)
    How are they to properly defend themselves if the plaintiff does not provide the specifics?
    … Oh, I get it now!
    “The statement of claim also alleges the defendants are already familiar with the offending posts, but can be provided with more details upon request”.
    They are supposed to somehow already know the details.
    So “children” you know what you have done wrong, I don’t need to tell you now do I, come on admit it now, (please)… now don’t make me have to tell you what you did, because that’s only going to make it worse for you and besides that’s now how this game is played.
    Of course, if I tell you what I think you did, then you’ll be able to properly defend yourself and prove me wrong (and everyone else will also know the alleged information).
    Perhaps the whole ploy is that the further this is dragged out at public expense the less the defendants will fight… Oh, could that be a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation).

    As a side bar, this one puzzles me? How is it that the Town Council approved that action be taken in mid-September for allegations in both the past and future (from August 24 to October 4th)?

  8. “Morris’ YouTube channel”

    She must mean this: http://www.youtube.com/user/MayorPhyllisMorris#p/u

    Which has about 20 blathering videos, the most views shows as 197, the least is 7.

    And she actually refers to this as a channel?

    Talk about someone who doesn’t understand how to use Social Media, even Roger Clowater’s “channel” looks good compared to hers.

    And she’s worried about comments? Why? Its not like anyone probably even read them. 7 views?

    How she could convince anyone to tag this onto a lawsuit filed against a separate web entity is absurd.

    Hey Phyllis, why not take ownership of your “channel” and moderate the comments as you see fit? While your at it why not take ownership for your abysmal past term of office. The fame you received has been well deserved.

  9. Aurora Law said

    If Mrs. Morris said she had no comment beyond the statement of claim and her lawyer did not return calls for comment by Mr. Pearce’s deadline, does this imply that they have nothing to say because they know that the entire action is spurious?

    Seldom has so much been written about so little.

    Phyllis dear, get over your loss at the polls, get over your absolute inability to get along with the majority of people. Start a new life, but avoid the media like the plague, because you’re not very good at it.

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