Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Council Ends Support of Morris Lawsuit

Posted by auroracitizen on December 21, 2010

Tonight Aurora Council reconsidered the motion that started Aurora down the path that allowed a politician to sue 3 private citizens for $6 million.

Sanity prevailed and 6 of 7 Councillors voted to reject the motion that Aurora should be spending our tax dollars to support a politicians desire to silence her critics.

Voting against the original motion were Mayor Dawe, Councillors Abel, Thompson, Buck, Humfryes and Pirri. Voting in favour was Councillor Gallo. As a result, the motion was defeated and Council no longer has provided direction to pursue “any and all action” — the language that led to the lawsuit.

Noticeably absent were Councillors Gaertner and Ballard. Possibly they had more pressing engagements this evening.

In practical terms this means that Phyllis Morris, private citizen, must now decide whether she is prepared to put up her own money to fund this lawsuit. She will now be financially accountable for her decisions — rather than Aurora taxpayers.

Councillor Thompson was the original mover of the motion for reconsideration and he spoke of hearing a consistent and strong message from citizens that the community viewed this as wholly inappropriate. As he campaigned he promised to listen and bring the concerns of the community forward — and felt that this was an important issue to deal with as expeditiously as possible.

We continue to be puzzled by Councillor Gallo’s re-confirmed support of this motion — particularly given his comments in the meeting that he never imagined that his original vote would have resulted in a lawsuit — which he clearly stated he did not support. So we are perplexed by his rationale for continuing to support a broad motion that enables a politician to use public funds to pursue a personal matter. Now with the benefit of hindsight, it was surprising to see him again vote in the affirmative to direct staff to continue to fund the lawsuit.

He also stated that he did believe in the principle that there was a line that should not be crossed when making comments about politicians. We agree.

If the comments are of a personal nature then they are out of bounds. But if the comments are about the performance of their duties, we believe that criticism is fair.

The next court date is set for Jan 13, 2011. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association will be appearing together with the lawyers for the 3 defendants against the motion being brought forward by Phyllis Morris.

24 Responses to “Council Ends Support of Morris Lawsuit”

  1. Anonymous said

    I watched “Our Town” with Allison Collins-Mrakas last night and was really impressed with her comments on the latest lawsuit revelations and her ensuing argument re taxpayers being held responsible for paying the legal fees up to December 21, 2010.
    I also read the article in the Auroran about Mr. Rust D’Eye’s advice to council prior to its making a decision whether to pay the fees. From what was written in the article I believe I see an explanation for Mr. Cooper’s departure recently.
    I don’t know if anyone else is as infuriated as I am about the outrage situation taxpayers have been placed in. Ms. Collins-Mrakas’s analysis really highlighted not only how ridiculous this whole episode has been but how unjust and wrong the outcome. In my opinion we have all been subject to a comedy of errors, incompetence, irresponsibility and un-due diligence on the part of lawyers and council members.
    I have reached the point where I am considering witholding my property taxes, at the very least the portion allocated to legal fees. Perhaps our taxes should be redirected to the citizens who are the targets of this travesty in order to help their situation. After all it is they who are the evidence that this could happen to any one of us.
    I think it is about time that people stand up and say “no”; this is wrong and we won’t pay for it. There has been a lot of rhetoric and verbal objection but isn’t it time that we collectively do something instead of just talk about this?
    Does anyone else feel this way?

  2. Winter's comin' said

    IMO, the Towns Folk can be proud of the councillors who participated in the vote of the evening. Personally I don’t have a problem with a negative vote. JG can at least hold his head high. On the the otherhand, WG and CB weren’t there – if they stand for accountability, they should provide us reasons for their absence (before the towns folk fill in the blanks). I sincerely hope that this is not what CB meant by: “Let the games begin”!! … wc

  3. Anonymous said

    John said he still supported the motion’s principle — that politicians and staff need to be able to protect themselves from defamation (which he clearly distinguished from mere criticism).

    He said he didn’t support how things played out after it was initially passed but felt he needed to stick to his original position since he still supported the principle of the motion.

    Mayor Dawe praised him for his ‘eloquence’ in articulting his position.

  4. Grace Marsh said

    What a great Christmas gift for all of Aurora, but especially for three people I admire and their family’s. Elizabeth, Richard and Bill, I could not be happier for you.

    Michael – thank you for your conviction to bring this forward in a very timely manner. Geoff – great leadership.

    John – sorry I don’t agree, but – you came, you spoke and you were respected by those present. Good job all.

    Wendy and Chris – the no show is disgusting.

  5. veritas said

    What is still weighing very heavily on me is that Councillor Gallo stated that he had no idea that voting on September 14th could result in litigation against private citizens. I cannot get my head around why not one councillor, including Gallo, asked the town solicitor for an explanation of what potential actions that could include.
    Three months later this is still something I cannot comprehend and makes me fear for the competence that is still sitting at the table. We can all say now that it will never happen again but how can we be sure unless we have 8 councillors and a mayor who not only refrain from voting in favour of vague, ambiguous motions but in the face of such motions, question and probe about all the possible actions and ramifications.
    I hope this is a lesson that has been learned by all and that this roster of elected officials will not tolerate what has happened before.

    • evelyn.buck said

      Merry Christmas to All
      And a Happy New Year

      The vote last Tuesday was just a first step.
      Council needs to obtain all the information that led to litigation being taken against three families in our community by the Town’s Mayor.

      I agree. It’s not enough simply to reverse the decision.

      I also believe solicitor/client privilege should be waived so that everyone knows how the town was brought to this.

  6. Matt Maddocks said

    Cheers to Aurora Council for this decision. I was proud as hell to be there last night when the vote was cast. I know that each of you searched deep inside to come to your decision, and in the end, you did the right thing. Cllr Thompson spoke eleoquently and to the point. He made it clear that he and others on council had listened carefully to the voices of the citizens of Aurora, and then using their own best judgement, acted accordingly.

    Bravo to all of you who had the strength of your convictions to put an end to this. Here’s to a great 4 years ahead!

  7. Kron Prinz Ferdinand said

    I think Councillor Gallo should resign by sticking to a position that the vast majority of Aurorans clearly did not want in the first place.

    • Robert the Bruce said

      Should a councillor resign if they have a different opinion than the majority? In the last half hour you have called for the resignation of two councillors. Soon we will have none.

      I do not recall a question on the ballot in October about whether we wanted to fund a lawsuit. Did the majority of Aurorans even vote?


    • Kron Prinz Ferdinand said

      “In the last half hour you have called for the resignation of two councillors. Soon we will have none.”

      I digress. I have merely called for the resignation of the councillors least committed to good governance given their positions so far. Additionally, I also asked for the pre-emptive resignation of Mr. Granger, as he would be the next up to bat if we lose a single councillor. Mr. Granger does not have the confidence of the majority of Aurorans as evidenced by the October vote. I would prefer a by-election instead, particularly now given the fact that I have a far better understanding of who the actors are in the play we are watching.

  8. Brian Duff said

    Well Done. A positive step heading into the New Year!

  9. Paul Sesto said

    Great to hear!
    Mayor Dawe and those councilors who publicly voiced their support for this action in the election have lived up to their election statements. By doing this now they have stopped the Town of Aurora’s involvement in the next legal proceeding of January 13th. Not being there last night I only have the information from the above, Aurora Citizen. For whatever his reasons Councilor Gallo has decided to take his stand alone, that is his right and that is our democracy. As for Councilors Gaertner and Ballard they would be in their rights for whatever reasons not to attend the special meeting but in doing so they have passed on having to officially show their support for or against.
    I know it’s not over yet but a very important milestone has been reached.
    Best wishes to Elizabeth Bishenden, Richard Johnson and Bill Hogg.

  10. JOHN H SARGENT said

    Merry Christmas or should i be political correct and have said Happy Holiday Season to all that were concerned with this issue..AWESOME—thee end

  11. IMO said

    So how do we find out how much all this has cost the taxpayers? And how to recover those funds?

    • Richard Johnson said

      It was recently reported that the tab for the legal services of Aird & Berlis has reached $43,000 to date. I am not sure if this cost will be assumed by Phyllis Morris or the tax payers of Aurora.

  12. Cut to the chase said

    So as a taxpayer I would like to know exactly what this means. The funding has been cut but I doubt retroactively. Are we on the hook for expenses incurred to date? If so how much? What is the cut off point? Billable hours as of December 22 when I assume notification will be sent?

    • October Came, Thanks were Given said

      According to Mr. Garbe as quoted in the newspaper, expenses for the lawsuit incurred up to Dec 22nd will be paid by the town.

      Meaning the taxpayers.

      I think all we have to do is add the expense amount onto the property tax bill for 10 Timpson drive, and the problem is solved.

  13. Luckywife said

    Congratulations to all Aurora Taxpayers, and a big thanks to Aurora Council. Six people tonight had the courage and integrity to live up to their promise to choose a path that is in the best interest of the Town and the Public.

    As for Gallo, I am neither surprised nor puzzled by how he voted tonight. I found his comments and his excuses offensive and insulting. What a hypocrite. I am disgusted.

    • Chris Gans said


      I was at the meeting last night and while I don’t agree with Mr. Gallo’s decision, I respect that he showed up and defended his rationale for making it. As noted, Councillor’s Ballard and Gaertner were “no shows” – I find that far more inexcusable.

      Common sense prevailed last night with the defeat of the motion but democracy was also served because I saw the other six councillor’s show respect and empathy for Mr. Gallo – even though he voted favour of the motion again.

      The past council was marred by a “with us or against us” mentality. I didn’t see any of that this evening. I feel optimistic that this council will be able to function in a professional and effective manner from what I saw tonight.

      Happy holidays to all!


    • Luckywife said

      Thank you Chris for your response. I was angry and upset last night, I didn’t elaborate on what got me so riled because what I would have written would not have been printable. I am still ticked but feeling a little more literate today.

      You are of course right, he did show up, was prepared to participate and debate and he did not shirk his responsibility or the commitment he made when he took the job. However, I don’t believe that we owe him any more gratitude than what is due the other six people and staff members, who also lived up to their responsibilities and commitments last night.

      His rationale for continuing to support the former council’s motion doesn’t hold water with me. His opinion, that we won’t be able to attract “quality people” (his words, not mine) to the job demonstrates to me a lack of respect for the voters and for the individuals who seek to serve their community in public office. “Quality People” have the intelligence and intellect to accept that the electorate will judge them by their actions, their behaviour and by the level of commitment they bring to the job. His excuse for this travesty? That even though a politician needs to have a thicker skin, it is not fair that their only option to defend their reputations is to dig deep into their own pockets! Excuse me?? It’s okay for you to dig deep into ours? Mr. Gallo needs to explain to us or show us where it is written in the Municipal Act that a council has the authority to commit public funds for the personal gain of a single individual. Can anyone explain to me, what the benefit to the Town of Aurora or its 50,000 except 1, residents, will receive in exchange for thousands of our tax dollars spent defending Phyllis Morris’s reputation? I don’t think anyone can, because there isn’t any.

      Regards and Happy Holidays

    • October Came, Thanks were Given said

      While Gallo’s defence of staff and Council members is admirable, I don’t see why he still felt it necessary to support a motion that had such broad and far reaching yet undefined capability. If his vote was to save some face so be it. i hope it wasn’t to display on going allegiance to those who have gone before.

    • Stephanie Allen said

      Chris, I am very pleased to hear that the council showed respect for an opposing decision. I completely agree with you – – that is an improvement well worth noting.

  14. MIA said

    One for the good guys!

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