Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Update: Morris Discontinues Lawsuit

Posted by auroracitizen on October 18, 2011

On Oct 17, 2011, almost 1 year to the date after stating a $6,000,000 lawsuit against 3 residents of Aurora, Phyllis Morris has discontinued her lawsuit.

A discontinuance by a plaintiff is exceedingly rare in civil proceedings. In essence, the plaintiff, who has brought the fight to the defendants, admits that he or she no longer wishes to prosecute her claim. Where a plaintiff discontinues a claim, it could be reasonably assumed that they have recognized that their claim was fatally flawed and without merit from the outset.

This discontinuance is a total victory for the defendants, and substantiates and supports the position they took throughout this litigation—that they did nothing wrong.

The discontinuance also ends the Appeals to Judge Brown’s recent rulings — which have now been accepted by Ms. Morris.

It was manifestly unfair that the defendants were put to the time and expense of legal fees at the hands of Ms. Morris, most especially in light of the fact that Ms. Morris used tax dollars to pursue them in what appeared to be a politically motivated attack intended to silence their efforts to hold her government accountable.

It is equally telling that Ms. Morris discontinued the litigation when she was called upon to fund it out of her own pocket rather than use taxpayer funds as initially intended. She was fully prepared to use town resources to support her private lawsuit, at the towns’ sole risk and expense to her sole potential gain, despite the fact that the Town’s Code of Conduct states clearly that “public office is not to be used for personal gain”.

While the defendants, Hogg and Johnson defended their principles with their own funds — Phyllis Morris did not.

Hopefully, there has been a lesson learned from this experience. Freedom of expression is a fundamental democratic right of all Canadians — but it is a right that will be attacked, and will need protection.

Unfortunately, it is another blemish on the good name of Aurora that the defendants were called upon to personally defend this right.

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33 Responses to “Update: Morris Discontinues Lawsuit”

  1. […] that string of setbacks, Morris has now voluntarily discontinued her suit – meaning that she’s given up entirely on the […]

  2. Time for a change said

    Can we drop Morris in the trash and move to Ballard, Gaertner and Gallo?

    It seems that they are with us to perpetuate councillor idiocy.

    Possibly some of your audience have an opinion to render on this trio of misfits. Our town’s business would be further ahead without them.

    Any takers?

    • Anonymous said

      I think an inquiry into how the Morris debacle happened in the first place is relevant at least to Gaertner and Gallo. Don’t forget that they are two of the councillors who voted to give her carte blanche in the first place and I would like to know how and why that happened.

  3. Ruth said

    It is great to hear from Matt Maddocks that Richard Johnson is looking so good and has a great weight off his shoulders. The unfortunate ending to this whole thing is that Mr Johnson has stated that he will never again get involved with local politics. What a loss to our community.

  4. Sprite said

    Elizabeth is owed a pittance. It is Evelyn who needs your help.

  5. Evelyn Buck said

    The legal invoices were paid after they were incurred, by the current council, on the advice of external legal counsel.
    I still believe solicitor/client privilege should have been waived and the full report made public rather than an executive summary.

    • veritas said

      As the lawsuit has now been dropped, isn’t it now the time for a full public accounting of how and why this was allowed to happen in the first place? Shouldn’t we, the taxpayers be entitled to find out everything that happened, who was involved, what meetings took place, who was present, what decisions were made throughout the process, by whom and why? Isn’t it also time that taxpayers are reimbursed for the $55K of their hard earned money that was squandered by the former mayor and certain members of council on a vindictive wild goose chase to try to satisfy personal vengeance?
      Isn’t it just about time??????

    • Integrity 2012 said

      To Veritas 7:21am

      This whole issue goes way back I believe.The whole story is not out yet and you are correct that an inquiry is needed.

      Only a few months into her term I was threatened by her with a SLAPP lawsuit.

      It was really strange then to hear it,but now I understand why.

      This blog gave citizens free speech and the ability to tell the truth.There is still one truth yet to come out.

      Look to the moraine and the truth may be there.She knew all along and did nothing.

      That is why I believe she went on the offensive.Time will tell.

  6. October Came, Thanks were Given said

    What of the settlement reached by Elizabeth and the former Mayor. Details are not publicly known, nor should they be. I would hope however that in the event Phyllis was paid to no longer pursue this suit with her that in the name of decency the money will be returned.

    That assumes of course that decency is a virtue possessed by our former Mayor.

  7. Stephanie said

    Luckywife said: “I am disappointed with the non actions of the current council, after voting to discontinue funding, that they then failed to pursue Ms. Morris for repayment of the debt owed to the taxpayers of Aurora”

    And Anonymous at 5:26 said: “How about the taxpayers being repaid by Morris for the $55K of our money that she spent before anyone had the balls to put a stop to it?”

    I wholeheartedly agree. As a taxpayer, I want my money back! Simply because the then-Council endorsed an act that went against the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act should not mean that I should have to fund their crime.

    The only small satisfaction is that the event will not be forgotten. The infamy and expense of an utterly baseless lawsuit, the vague claims of outrageous damages — whether or not people say it out loud “face-to-face”, it will be certainly not be forgotten and will be whispered about for a long, long time.

    A good reputation is invaluable; a tarnished one is hard to leave behind.

    • Great comment Stephanie. I agree that this whole issue will not be forgotten.

      As far as I’m concerned, each time Ms. Morris shows her face in public serves as a constant reminder of the pain she’s wrought on this town, and worse, vindictively punished 3 innocent Aurora families. Cloaked in righteousness, the lawsuit appeared to me to be nothing more than an attack fuelled by twisted revenge and blind rage. It was, in my opinion, the most egregious abuse of municipal public office I’ve ever seen. I will not forget, not now, not ever.

      On a positive note, I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Richard Johnson, just after the discontinuance. I was struck by the glow and energy Richard had in his manner – and this wasn’t about gloating, rather it seemed to stem from having a great burden lifted from his shoulders. I have a great deal of respect for how all 3 defendants carried themselves through this ordeal, but I hold Richard in very high esteem; he is a man of passion, honesty, and integrity.

    • Confused said

      It is interesting to note that Morris a mayor gets $55,000 of town money to support her personal claim for defamation in an amount of $6,000,000. She is the plaintiff.

      It is also interesting to note that this same Morris as mayor, along with five other councillors (then and/or now) gets town money to support her through a liability insurance policy, premium paid by the town, as she is sued by Evelyn Buck for defamation among other things. Councillor Buck has brought this action on her own behalf and with her own funds with possible support from others.

      According to Ms. Buck’s own posting on July 9 she has at that point been examined for discovery. The defendants are supposed to undergo this in August. This was supposed to happen two months ago. Are the Examinations for Discovery now completed? Usually the next stage before a trial is something called “mediation,” where an attempt is made to resolve the issues. If this fails, off to trial.

      My question is: Can the town not instruct its insurer to settle this matter to the satisfaction of the parties, including full costs to Ms. Buck? It seems an outrage that taxpayers are funding Morris both as plaintiff and defendant. Surely there is something the town can do to end this ludicrous state of affairs.

    • Melanie said

      To Confused:

      You said: “My question is: Can the town not instruct its insurer to settle this matter to the satisfaction of the parties, including full costs to Ms. Buck? It seems an outrage that taxpayers are funding Morris both as plaintiff and defendant. Surely there is something the town can do to end this ludicrous state of affairs.”

      I have little knowledge of insurance litigation but I believe the general rule of thumb is that if the insurance company is covering the cost of the litigation under its indemnity policy, they are also calling all the shots. I would not be surprised to learn that the Town knows very little about the case and where it stands. I suspect that even the principles, namely the GOS, know little of the nuts and bolts of the case beyond their own depositions and affidavits and what they may speculate among themselves. Perhaps that is why some of them felt the need to attend Evelyn’s own deposition. Otherwise, why bother to show up, it’s not as if their presence was likely to intimidate her, a fact they would already be well aware of given the history.

      I think the case is an extremely interesting and perplexing one for the court. Beyond establishing whether Mrs. Buck was slandered and defamed, (I wholeheartedly believe that she was) the court may also be asked to consider whether the GOS were acting in their capacity as elected representatives of the Town. How can the GOS legitimately make that claim given that they were very clearly admonished, not once, but twice, by the Director of Legal Services, that they were not to hear the complaint. Now, here is the ultimate question IMO: If a majority of council willfully disregards the legal advisement of a representative authority of the Corporation, present at the meeting for that very purpose, are they still acting as true representatives of the Corporation? If no, then by what right can they claim to be indemnified under the corporate policy? If yes, does that make the authority of a council majority limitless and absolute? And would that not in fact, render both the Municipal Act and the Procedural By-Laws irrelevant?

      Final question: If the GOS were acting appropriately and in their capacity as members of council, why are the Minutes not an accurate reflection of what actually took place at the meeting?

      Beyond wishing Evelyn success and compensation for her claim, I would also hope to see some positive good come out of this mess, namely that the Provincial legislature take a long hard look at the Municipal Act and address its faults and gaping loopholes, and to legislate authority to the Provincial Ombudsman to investigate municipalities for compliance with the Act and their own procedural by-laws.

      Best regards,
      Luckywife

  8. Evelyn Buck said

    To Anonymous 5.26 p.m.
    How about giving some thought to how this event came to pass?

    How did the former Mayor come to have access to legal counsel and the courts at the expense of the taxpayers of Aurora?

    It took a majority vote of Council to direct staff to proceed.
    They had more than a majority. They had six votes; Morris,MacEachern,Gaertrner,Granger,Gallo and Wilson.

    They did it because they had the authoority and God Help Us All ,they thought it was the right thing to do

    Councillor Gaertner still thinks so.

    Two of them received the trust of Aurora voters again and two others came close to it.

    We have three Councillors of similar mind on the current council . They were elected in a clean and democratic process.

    Now ask yourself again how such a thing as three residents of the town being subjected to such injustice could have been allowed to happen?

    You don’t have to look far for the answer.

    • Tim the Enchanter said

      All too true Councillor

      A question (a 2 parter)

      My understanding is that there are 2 outstanding legal actions involving the ex-mayor.
      Once these are settled (hopefully soon)

      Is the current council prepared to:

      A) go back over this sorry mess and provide a full public accounting (as far as legal restrictions permit) of how the hell this happened and what it cost?

      B) enact the necessary rules (within the boundaries of the Municipal Act of course) to make sure it can’t happen again?

      And no – we don’t need to sue anybody as far as I’m concerned – I think one episode of the Gang That Couldn’t Sue Straight is plenty – no need for a sequel.

    • One who Knows said

      Make that four residents !!!, they dragged you through their mud and would have celebrated your down fall more than Christmas , Easter and Thanks Giving , Hard to fathom their level of hate and contempt toward one individual who happens to have an opposing point of view

    • Jytte K. Gillies said

      Only one from the old Council was re-elected…and as Evelyn Buck noted – 2 new Councillor’s was voted in with similar mind-set….and tha’t Ok ..the democratic way.

      BUT, Aurora’s tax-payers are watching… and they are not in the mood for another case like this.

      Without free speech..we have nothing.

  9. Sprite said

    You have to wonder why Baird Aerlis took on that can of worms. The case is going to be precedent setting and gives them an enormous black eye in the text books for years to come.

  10. Paul Sesto said

    Great News!

    It would be even better if we could discover all of the facts behind how this was allowed to happen in the first place. But, that may have to wait as there is still the action of George Hervey claim against the former mayor that she violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

  11. Melanie said

    I am delighted for Bill Hogg and Richard Johnson. It must be such a relief to see an end come to a very difficult and stressful year for them and their families.

    There is no doubt that the actions of Phyllis Morris and her cadre of delusional supporters have brought shame and disrepute upon the Town of Aurora. It both angers and saddens me that this madness went on for as long as it did. I am disappointed with the non actions of the current council, after voting to discontinue funding, that they then failed to pursue Ms. Morris for repayment of the debt owed to the taxpayers of Aurora, choosing instead to sweep the matter under the proverbial carpet. It is shameful that the wheels of what passes for civil justice in this country turn so slowly, and that the plaintiff in this vengeful and politically motivated action will not be held to 100% indemnity to the respondant/victims, the CCLA , and for the waste of the Court’s time.

    That the six members of the current council blessed with some semblance of intellect and level headedness have failed in their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers they represent just adds more injury to the insult. There is so much more they could have done to try and restore some dignity and respect to the town and to convey that the message that was sent last October 25 was heard loud and clear. Where was the appeal to the Provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs requesting clarification of the section of the Act cited as the launchpad of this baseless claim? While there is no authority for the Ontario Ombudsman to intervene in Municipal matters, there is nothing to prohibit a council from extending an invitation to investigate. What do they do instead? Hide behind the cloak of in camera confidentiality and further deny the good people of the town the right of knowing exactly what transpired in secrecy in the final days of what is supposed to be a lame duck session. How typical.

    I hope that the Aurora Citizen will continue to be a forum for civil discussion and debate. While we may not always agree with the views of other posters or with those of Evelyn Buck or Chris Watts, we should all be bloody grateful for them, because without them, it is entirely possible that Phyllis Morris and Evelina MacEachern could still be ruining your town.

    Best regards,
    Luckywife

  12. Something ventured, nothing gained said

    If you assume that Morris’ legal costs in total, including the $55,000 portion paid by the town to mid-December, will exceed $100,000, and you further assume that those of the defence might approximate a similar sum, my question is: what was gained from this gross financial misadventure?

    Since the plaintiff Morris has simply thrown in the towel in recognition of the hopeless nature of her suit, why should she not be called upon to pay for every dollar spent defending against her spurious claims?

    While the defence was successful in law according to Justice Brown’s ruling re: Norwich, why should it not be similarly successful in being repaid in full for the dollar amount that had to be spent?

    It is a significant victory for freedom of expression under the Charter, and a slap in the face of those who attempt to control or silence criticism of public figures, especially just a few weeks before an election.

    There has to be a mechanism for enforcing the payment in full by the initiating party to the other side, particularly when the initiator decides to simply walk away. In excess of $200,000 could have been put to far better use in our community with lasting benefits for many of our citizens.

  13. Anonymous said

    Thanks above that this one is over. Hope all works out over repayment.

    As far as Aurora lawsuits, one down, two to go!

  14. veritas said

    Hallelujah! Finally a wrong has been righted and about time! Never should have been allowed to happen in the first place and I still condemn those who voted in favour of it at last term’s council table – some of whom still hold office. I sincerely hope that they, especially, are taking note.

  15. Finally said

    Well done!

  16. Chris said

    The right thing for the Town to do is to pay all of the legal fees of the respondents (with an apology). The Town of Aurora started this action. It is a matter of civil liberty.

    • Tim the Enchanter said

      Mostly agree with that Chris except instead of “all of the legal fees” I would say any legal fees not covered by their settlement with Ms. Morris.

    • Anonymous said

      Chris said; October 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm
      The right thing for the Town to do is to pay all of the legal fees of the respondents (with an apology). The Town of Aurora started this action. It is a matter of civil liberty.

      This is Bang On
      the Town started it so it should pay them the difference owed ,plus interest ,

    • Melanie said

      I agree with Anonymous 9:33

      The defandants are owed an apology and compensation for costs from the Town. As a taxpayer, that sends chills down my spine, but it rankles me more that this was allowed to happen with no acccountability. It may be the only way that the public gets answers as to how this was allowed to happen and how a Town employee (now former) was stuck in the middle of it. Let’s not forget that it was the voters who were ultimately left with the responsibility to put an end to this. If the election had turned out differently…………….

      Regards,
      Luckywife

    • Jean said

      Agreed. The defendants are owed more than can ever be repaid, but an apology and compensation should be given. It only makes sense.

    • Anonymous said

      How about the taxpayers being repaid by Morris for the $55K of our money that she spent before anyone had the balls to put a stop to it?

  17. Jytte K. Gillies said

    Congratulation to you all.

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