Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Auroran Letter Writer Has Some Facts Wrong

Posted by auroracitizen on November 8, 2011

This week, Alex Vander Veen wrote a letter to The Auroran (pg 4) supporting former Mayor Phyllis Morris. That’s his right and we support his right to state his opinion.

However, like many of her supporters, he has some of his facts wrong.

The truth is, Phyllis Morris did not sue anonymous bloggers. They were anonymous — so she didn’t know who they were. Result — the anonymous bloggers never spent 1 thin dime on this lawsuit.

What really happened was that Phyllis Morris sued 3 local families who were required to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend their names and the right for citizens of Auroran to freely criticize their local politicians.

In the end, the courts found no fault in anything they had done and she abandoned her lawsuit.

You may agree that anonymous bloggers should be held accountable for their words.

You may even agree with using your tax dollars to initiate a lawsuit.

But do not for one minute think this lawsuit was about suing anonymous bloggers.

The truth is that the 3 families Phyllis Morris sued were not anonymous bloggers. But they were the target of her attack.

So if you want to defend Phyllis Morris — at least have the courtesy to get the facts straight and admit what she really did.

Phyllis Morris used our tax dollars to launch a lawsuit for her own personal financial benefit and she sued 3 families who had nothing to do with the blog comments she was complaining about.

To carry Mr Vander Veen’s analogy further about schoolyard bullies — this sounds more like a bully who was afraid to fight their own fight — instead they got a gang together to intimidate and bully 3 smaller people — just because they happened to be standing in the schoolyard when snowballs were thrown.

Who’s really the coward?

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35 Responses to “Auroran Letter Writer Has Some Facts Wrong”

  1. Same Old; Same Old said

    This was posted Nov. 8, 2011. Read it carefully, the pros and the cons. Nothing has changed. Morris still contends her ‘ case ‘ is ‘ meritorious ‘ and the damage continues with her sad pack of zombies.As long as just one of them is writing the script for Council meetings, we have not advanced from the Dark Ages of bullies and Lawyers.

  2. LeeAnn said

    To shorten a very long commute to work I had to leave Aurora last October and move to Milton. One of the regrets that weigh heavily upon me is that I won’t be able to vote for Mayor Dawe again.

    Focus on the positive, dear people, and do whats best for one of the best places on earth, Aurora!!

  3. Evelyn Buck said

    Since my name came into the conversation regarding who sued who…allow me to point out the first legal action taken in my situation was by exactly the same group which authorised the action against Johnson, Hogg and Bishenden.

    They hired a lawyer, instructed him to investigate all my public utterances: in letters to the editor,comments in council meetings, and blog posts. They further instructed him what to find. Then they told him to put his findings into a report and they filed it as a formal complaint to the Town’s Integrity Commissioner.
    They also directed, in a public meeting , on cable television, staff to publish the document in two local newspapers and on the town’s web site.

    All of this they paid for with public resources. Moneys raised from taxes.

    Legal fees alone were $70.000. Publishing, Integrity Commissioner’s fees, staff time and all other ancillary expenses came from the town treasury. No doubt not falling far short of $100,000.

    Not until their almighty endeavour was complete, did I take reciprocal action to defend my reputation, my rights, and the rights of all others in the community.

    The authority of elected representatives to use public resources for the purpose used against me is not a part of any Legislative Act known to me.

    They are therefore sued as private individuals.

    They are being defended as elected representatives with public resources. None of the costs incurred due to their actions are having an impact on any of their families.

    All have been paid from the public purse.

    • Sprite said

      Fair enough. Now can someone please explain why the Town’s insurance
      company has not settled this thing? Can they not be forced to negotiate now
      that the examinations have been completed ? And please don’t just reply that
      insurance companies never want to settle. We are paying the freight and
      should have some say in their behaviour.

    • Evelyn Buck said

      Add-on:

      All have been paid…and continue to be paid …from the public purse

    • Hopeful said

      You have written on your blog that Examinations for Discovery were conducted during the summer, July and August as I recall. Are these now completed?

      Has a court date been set to hear your action? This should be a matter of public record. I am advised that mediation is a prerequisite before a suit proceeds to trial. What news on this?

      While it seems that the legal system seems to drag on for an interminable time, the former’s defamation action was concluded in just over a year. Mind you, that was thanks to to the plaintiff throwing in the towel and discontinuing her ill-conceived action, one in which she failed to establish any defamation whatsoever.

      The application brought against the former under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act has a court date set for hearing February 17. Again, while this seems like a long time since its initiation in May, it probably is quite reasonable considering the court’s very busy schedule. Examinations are yet to take place and a final witness list is being worked on. Those who fail to appear voluntarily can be compelled to do so under summons.

      Since the former is no longer the plaintiff but occupies the opposite side in this litigation, she will not have the opportunity to discontinue, and must remain engaged until the very end and a final ruling is handed down by a judge of the Superior Court.

      One of the provisions in the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act that can be imposed is that the respondent repay in full to a municipality the funds that were paid out on his/her behalf to fund a personal action where he/she was the direct and only beneficiary. It would really be great to have a judge order the former to repay $55,000 to the town of Aurora. Its residents and tax-payers would feel that a certain level of justice had been achieved.

    • More Than Money said

      Bullying seems a mild term for what Evelyn has had to endure, a determined, relentless attempt the destroy her by any means possible funded by the unsuspecting taxpayers while hired legal thugs prowled the Town Hall. I believe she is entitled to compensation and have no idea how the amount could be reached. I would like more, however. I want a public apology from the Mormac pack of hounds, an acknowledgement that what thy did was wrong and that they regret their behaviour. To date there has not been a peep from any of the individuals involved that anything they have done was beyond all bounds. There are still self-righteous platitudes flowing. This must cease.

      A public apology can be gut-wrenching. I want to see some guts wrench in Aurora.

    • Anonymous said

      If Phyllis & Evalina headlined our ‘Evening of Apology’, people from the audience could stand up and tell their horror storys. We could raise some
      money that would go Directly to worthy town causes, like the Food Pantry & Evelyn’s legal bills. None to the Cultural Centre, although maybe some for
      the Historical Society, no middle-persons.

    • Larry Fyne said

      Right. But who drew first blood in this case? Ms. Buck sued the families of 6 residents and is continuing to wage her campaign. The Morris suit was later.

    • Fact Checker said

      Larry, now you are saying families. You can’t have it both ways Larry. Isn’t that being a hypocrite?

      Something we all saw too much of last term.

    • Larry Fyne said

      No Fact Checker…. just trying to drive home a point around the “phrasing”.

      Seriously, why do we take a blind eye to the legal costs that this “other” suit will no doubt cost the taxpayers but the vast majority of lambs seem to back it?

      I don’t get it.

    • Anonymous said

      Oh Larry, you still haven’t done your reading. Evelyn is suing individuals but it hasn’t cost them a cent Nor has it impacted on their families. We have had no
      indication that they are even aware of the anger in town.
      As for continuing to wage her campaign, it is out of Evelyn’s hands at this stage. They could reach a negotiated settlement but the insurance company
      is with-holding any moves in that direction.
      You are in the forest and seeing only a few little saplings.

    • More Than Money said

      Larry,
      Does it not strike you as passing strange that this little town is involved in 3
      lawsuits with the core of each being the same group of individuals ? Evelyn is
      involved in one case only and you could argue that she was forced into it. The
      others signed on to do battle but not to the extent of risking any of their own
      money.

  4. October Came, Thanks were Given said

    Spin? Twisting? Smoke? Mirrors?

    Is this singles night at Greystone’s?

    Nope, just politics, and at the municipal, provincial or federal level,, so it ever shall be.

    • Anonymous said

      True. But that doesn’t mean that we have to like it or site back and not call a spade a spade. As far as I am concerned, we have an obligation to participate.

      Democracy is messy and always has been, which is also likely why freedom of expression is “protected” in the parliament, the legislature and at town & city halls across the country.

      It’s too bad (to put it mildly) that some local politicians see it as their right to silence and / or punish those people that dare to disagree with them or try to hold them accountable. Debate and democracy need to be protected.

  5. Anonymous said

    I would support an inquiry into how this all came about: step by step, meeting by meeting, participant by participant and decision by decision. I think we as taxpayers deserve nothing less than a FULL accounting of what happened and who was involved. Once ALL the facts have been uncovered, I also hope that this council will take steps to have the taxpayers reimbursed for all public monies spent on this debacle by ALL who participated and allowed it to happen in the first place. Oh, and remember, two of those people still sit at the council table.

  6. Missing Link said

    A book that would never get a publisher. But I have often wondered what happened to the reported threat by elephant that Morris claimed appeared on her own controlled website. That was so cool !

  7. Odds Are said

    Who would like to take my bet that Morris is writing a book about her trials &
    tribulations ? She did say she would write, open a detective agency or learn to cook.

    • One who Knows said

      No doubt , it would start with once upon a time , just like all the rest of the fairy tales

    • Paul Sesto said

      The book that I would rather read would be the one detailing and timelining the complete history of this action with all conversations, decisions, legal advice, etc. It would have to start before the midnight closed council meeting of September 14, 2010 so that we can also know how that closed session was planned.

      It would have to include how it went from that meeting to a lawsuit? Who authorized what? Why did this not go back to council as some councillors later seemed unaware of the depth of their decision? Was that the plan in the first place?

      What was discussed in that meeting that councillors were convinced to vote “Yes” and yet made Councillor Bob McRoberts at the September 28, 2010 Council meeting disavow his approval of the motion?

      Was there no care or prior legal advice given that the suit had so many holes in it as evidenced by the court’s decisions because the whole plan was simply to SLAPP the defendants with the notion that they would break quickly under the pressure? Wow – that was certainly underestimated as to the resolve of Bishenden, Johnson & Hogg and the support towards other mayoral & councillor candidates in the last election.

      Who said what, when, why etc. from September 2010 to October 2011.

      Still so many unanswered questions.

      Perhaps more will be disclosed with the still pending Conflict of Interest action.

      This would be a great read – perhaps not widely read outside of Aurora, perhaps panned by those not in agreement but certainly relevant to us all. I envision that Morris v. Johnson et al will be noted in future cases for the defense of our freedom of speech.

  8. seriously confused said

    Is Mr. Vander Veen standing up for Morris in her capacity as a resident of Aurora or for the reign of error that was committed by her during her term as mayor?

    He says that she acted “no doubt after having obtained expert legal advice.” Events have proved that this legal advice was anything but expert since a Superior Court Justice determined that Morris had failed to establish a prima facie case of defamation. The judge turfed the claim. Perhaps expert lawyers should have to foot a part of the bill along with the losing side in a law suit.

    Hobbling along, Morris continued to fight by contesting the costs that were awarded against her and only in the dying moments at the end of a tiring day did common sense prevail and she elected to discontinue her lawsuit.

    This woman should not be supported by any member of the community. Rather, she should be pitied for living in a dreamworld of her own making, one that she appears to continue to inhabit.

  9. Larry Fyne said

    Let’s the hyperbole at home too. Morris did not sue three families, she sued three individuals.

    • A Family Man said

      Larry,

      Not sure what your family is like, but in most families the impact of taking tens of thousands of dollars from the family bank account would affect the entire family. Money that could be used for sports fees, vacations, dinners out with family, clothing, donations to deserving charities, etc. That affects the entire family.

      Furthermore, the entire family — including young children – had their names dragged through the mud for something the courts subsequently ruled against and Morris dropped her lawsuit.

      So technically you may be right — and maybe that will help Morris supporters sleep at night.

      But in most families, what happens to one affects them all. That’s a big part of what makes them a family.

      Sorry if your experience has been different.

    • October Came, Thanks were Given said

      Well I guess the readership of the Auroran will spike this week, and then again next week when we look for the replies to this letter.

      What a shame this whole experience has been.

      Perhaps the next time you see the former Mayor in public express that thought. Whisper SHAME, SHAME, SHAME within hearing and watch the reaction.

    • Augustinius said

      It’s been a while since…

      It is most gratifying to see so many literate and intelligent comments once again come to life on Aurora Citizen.

      There obviously continues to be a minority of vexatious ignorants among us. But that is their right.

      The Morris litigation was an attempt at denying us the freedom of expression. It failed. We can continue to state how we feel, and in public. Well done.

    • Anonymous said

      Larry:

      If the impacted families related to the defendants had gone bankrupt while defending themselves against baseless and unspecified allegations, do you think that would have impacted everyone in the family ? Do you think that spouses may have lost some sleep as well as the named defendants who, by the way, had all claimed their complete innocence from day one ?

      I’m curious, are you aware of how much money this defence cost, only to have Morris pull out less than half way through the process because either she had no money to fund this private lawsuit with her own money, or much more likely, because she had to admit to herself that she had a case that she or her lawyers knew that she could not win. Our justice system does not come cheap and typical families could easily be bankrupt or poorly represented in the process, especially when fighting against what amounts to a blank cheque from a town, all in the name of “good government”.

      Take a look at a few of the following select quotes from the Norwich Motion decision.

      [2] “The issue before me is whether the production of identity information of the anonymous Defendants can be compelled in order to permit Ms. Morris to proceed with her defamation claim, taking into account also the issues of the privacy rights of the parties and freedom of expression and political speech.”

      [6] “Morris, “in her capacity as Mayor of the Corporation of the Town of Aurora” issued a Notice of Action against the named and anonymous Defendants on October 8, 2010. The title of proceeding was subsequently amended to remove Morris’s title as Mayor.”

      [13] “Freedom of expression has long been recognized in our jurisprudence as among the most fundamental of rights possessed by Canadians, with three core purposes, or rationales, including democratic discourse, truth finding and self fulfillment. “

      [14] “ As Chief Justice McLachlin stated in Grant et al. v. Torstar et al., 2009 SCC 61 (CanLII), [2009] 3 S.C.R. 640:

      “…[F]ree expression is essential to the proper functioning of democratic governance. As Rand J. put it, “government by the free public opinion of an open society…demands the condition of a virtually unobstructed access to and diffusion of ideas”…

      …“As held in WIC Radio, freewheeling debate on matters of public interest is to be encouraged, and must not be thwarted by “overly solicitous regard for personal reputation”. Productive debate is dependent on the free flow of information…”

      [15] “Canadian law recognizes that the right to free expression does not confer a licence to ruin reputations, both with respect to private citizens and people in public office. Those who enter public life cannot reasonably expect to be immune from criticism, some of it harsh and undeserved. Nor does participation in public life amount to open season on reputation.”

      [22] “In ensuring that proper weight is given to the important value of freedom of expression, particularly in the political context, the importance of the stringent prima facie test is necessary to protect and balance the public interest in favour of disclosure with the competing interests of privacy and freedom of expression.”

      [36 ] “In order to establish whether a prima facie case exists, the Court must engage in a detailed and contextual analysis of each statement alleged to be defamatory. In my view, this is not possible where the Plaintiff has not clearly identified the words relied upon. While the Plaintiff argues that the words of defamation are clearly set forth in the articles, it is not the role of the Court to parse the impugned articles and blogs before it to attempt to determine, by divination or divine inspiration, which statements it should assess in determining whether a prima facie case has been established.“

      Judge Brown then goes on to outline a number of additional reasons why the Norwich Motion was tossed out.

      As someone who cares about justice I have to assume that your retort will likely be that the defence should be able to recover most if not all of its costs, so where is the problem ? The problem lies with the fact that, putting aside the great harm done to so many families and the public discourse within the community over the past five years (all in the name of “good government” and “integrity”), the defence in this instance costs a huge amount of money and the courts don’t typically reimburse 100% of the costs, as much as some people may feel they should.

      In my view Morris should be ashamed of herself for the harm she has caused to so many people, including those elected, the electorate, town staff and even an integrity commissioner, but instead she is handing out poppies and participating in remembrance ceremonies for those that paid the ultimate price in defending our most basic and fundamental democratic rights to freedom of thought and expression without fear of recrimination from ones government.

      If you can’t see the hypocrisy in all of this, some of us do.

    • Larry Fyne said

      I guess the fact that the original post was to correct “facts” and I sought to correct a “fact” too is not allowed.

      I know how this impacts a family, but the reality is “she did not sue families” – that is a fact.

      Until I see the legal document that says “Morris vs. Hogg family” I will continue to believe my facts.

    • Fact Checker said

      Larry, I appreciate you wanting to correct the facts, but your post seemed to be defending Morris, hence the reaction from other readers who do not share your sympathies.

      And since we are correcting facts — it should be noted that Morris did not sue 3 people — it was Morris in her capacity as Mayor, funded by Aurora taxpayers. That was the original lawsuit. It was only after she was challenged in the courts on the basis it is unlawful for a municipality to sue citizens that she changed her pleadings. Furthermore, it was only after the incoming Town Council refused to continue to fund the lawsuit that she was required to pay on her own.

      So the facts are that Morris attempted to use the full weight and resources of the Town of Aurora to fight a personal battle against 3 citizens using tax dollars while expecting the defendants to fight city hall using their own funds. In this case, David was again able to slay the giant Goliath.

      Here’s a question for you. In a genuine desire to get all the facts — would you support a full investigation as suggested by some others on this site and in the local media?

      Are you genuinely interested in getting all the facts or just defending Ms. Morris?

    • Larry Fyne said

      To: Fact Checker….

      I am in no way defending Morris or anything that she did. If that is the inference, my apologies. I am not a supporter of her – never been.

      Also, according to Mr Moderator…. it says in the originsl post, Morris sued…. So if you find that I am inaccurate in this respect, it comes from the top.

      My intent was to temper an inaccuracy in a post whose intent was to point out an inaccuracy. Saying that she sued 3 families is not accurate. Can we say that Evelyn Buck is suing 6 families! Same thing I guess.

      I would support a full investigation as long as it does not cost the tax payers a dime! I already pay too much for too little. You complain that she used the Town resources, I am not in favour of thowing good money after bad.

      If you want to take up donations for that, I look forward to the truth – whatever that is.

    • Anonymous said

      OK Larry. You won in one respect. We’ll give you that. Technically you’re correct, but effectively you’re wrong. Morris sued three individuals and as a result she punished both the named individuals and their respective families, which I am sure we can all agree was the intended point.

      Doesn’t your point amount to a hollow and pointless splitting of hairs ? The intent was clear and your concentration on minutia adds nothing to the conversation and doesn’t constitute a very effective rebuttal if your intent was to somehow defend Morris’ actions or to question the veracity of the initial post.

    • Fact Checker said

      Larry, you are correct on the wording of the original post.

      I think we agree that in this matter accuracy of information is essential from all sides.

      I appreciate your comments and hope to read more in the future.

    • Sorry, Larry said

      Back to the drawing board, lad. The facts simply do not support your contentions. You have a whole lot of reading to do before you are up to speed.
      It is all available right here and you can refer to Christopher Watts for some light relief on the same subject.

    • Anonymous said

      OK. It’s me… “Anonymous” again. I’m calling a truce.

      No hard feelings Larry. I got the mistaken impression that you were a Morris apologist along the lines of what we have seen on this site before. To be honest, I can’t stand the spin and twisting we have seen too often in our local politics. The distractions and smoke screens are hard to accept in light of how so many people have been impacted.

      That said, we all deserve to be held to account. I still disagree with the point you emphasised given that families were impacted irrespective of who was legally named in the lawsuit, but I now better understand your intent.

  10. It is for this very reason – the misinformation in the letter, and the subsequent clarification / correction posted here on the AC, that we must never forget the pain Morris has wrought – not only the incredible financial burden 3 innocent Aurora families have been punished with, but the chilling effect her baseless lawsuit has invoked upon free speech and our right to comment and post.

    Never forget; this time, the Hogg, Johnson, and Bishenden familes were the victims of her wrath. As she appears to be forcing her way back into our lives again, who knows who will be targeted the next time she feels the need for revenge…

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