Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Morris Conflict of Interest Case Continues

Posted by auroracitizen on November 3, 2012

Here is an update on Phyllis Morris’s Legacy as Mayor of Aurora.

Last Friday November 2, 1012, at a few minutes before 11:00 am, the door to Court Room 301 at the Newmarket Courthouse was opened by the Bailiff and those who would attend do so and stake out their seats. The room is far more intimate than the one used for the first day of hearings and Phyllis Morris — together with her die-hard supporters — elects the right hand side where there are more chairs. Among her group were her spouse, her daughter, Catherine Marshall, Guy Poppe, an unidentified woman, and lo and behold sitting Councillors Gaertner and Ballard.

With Gaertner, her appearance is to be expected. She has been an unwavering supporter and blindly followed Morris in all things done.

But what is striking is that Ballard would waste a whole day sitting at the feet of a failed politician and unequivocally declaring his support. After his steadfast refusal to declare his support at the last election — which probably served him well — he has now consistently declared his support for Morris and her failed leadership.

Jill Copeland, lawyer for George Hervey, raised the first order of business. She holds up a document and describes it as the decision handed down on October 22, 2012, by Master Thomas Hawkins, arising from a claim for costs filed by the remaining two defendants in the original defamation suit. Ms. Copeland points out the important conclusion reached by Master Hawkins, namely that the defamation action was in fact SLAPP litigation, whose sole purpose was to intimidate and silence certain critics of the former mayor and in which she was the sole beneficiary of the $6,000,000 sought. She felt it was relevant to this matter as well.

Steven O’Melia, representing Morris, objected quite strongly about allowing this document to be entered as evidence.

Judge Gilmore sided with Ms. Copeland.

The day then began with Mr. O’Melia continuing with his drudging litany of misbehavior by Mr. Hervey.

Mr O’melia quoted extensively from Mr. Hervey’s sworn testimony and from letters to the Editor of the Auroran written by Mr. Hervey. He found it somewhat confusing that Mr. Hervey used the date of March 30, 2011, when the Rust-D’Eye Executive Summary was released by the town, as the date that Mr. Hervey knew for a fact that there had been breaches of a pecuniary nature and hence a conflict — while at the same time disagreeing with other parts of the same document, particularly those that opined that the entire operation of the town was breaking down due to poor staff morale.

In other words he didn’t argue that Morris was not in a conflict — but that the case should not be heard because private citizen Hervey was too late in bringing the matter forward to the courts. In legal circles, this is trying to avoid a judges ruling on the basis of a legal loophole — versus arguing the matter on the basis of whether she was actually in a conflict. An interesting strategy.

After lunch,  Mr. O’Melia continued with his arguments — although now, Mr Poppe is replaced by another long time supporter of Ms Morris — former Councillor Stephen Granger. O’Melia concluded at 3:00 pm. A total of 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Ms. Copeland took the floor and told the judge that she had 13 points that she wished to make. These were all by way of specific reply to arguments put forward by Mr. O’Melia and were in now a summation statement. Ms. Copeland’s presentation was completed with a certain amount of controlled emotion; it reinvigorated the Courtroom  and it certainly held the Judge’s undivided attention.

The matter concluded at 3:30 PM, the Judge thanked Counsel and said she would get at the case as soon as she could, although she had a substantial backlog.

This could be several months.

33 Responses to “Morris Conflict of Interest Case Continues”

  1. Anonymous said

    During the early moments of last night’s Council meeting, Councillor Chris Ballard stated that he could not support the meeting’s Agenda as written, and would have to vote against it.

    The offending item was the Notice of Motion put forward by Councillor Michael Thompson that proposes that the town of Aurora should extend an apology to the three named bloggers central to the aborted lawsuit launched by former mayor, Phyllis Morris. This followed the judicial ruling that labelled the Morris action as SLAPP, a means of silencing political criticism.

    The Thompson Notice of Motion goes further. It wishes the decision of Master Thomas Hawkins to be reproduced in full on the town’s website and requests that the Town Solicitor bring back a report in closed session to comment on the “financial implications” of the Hawkins decision. This is with respect to any potential recovery of part or all of the $55,000 paid by the town toward Morris’ legal bills until such further payment was terminated in December, 2010.

    What is difficult to understand is Councillor Ballard’s statement that to proceed with this motion could place the town “in jeopardy” although he did not say why or how this might occur. The councillor talked at some length about having studied the case closely, having read much of the written materials, such as examination testimonies and affidavits. In addition, he was present in court on the last day of argument on the COI matter. All of this appears to give him a very clear perspective on the matter and its issues

    It almost sounded as if the councillor was denying the decisions by two different judicial officers, both strongly against the former mayor

    What are the councillor’s legal credentials?

    If he is using the word “jeopardy” on the same scale as Morris’ use of “burden” he might find himself short-changed.

    In a recorded vote he lost, 7 – 2, newly relocated Councillor Gaertner being his sole supporter.

  2. Anonymous said

    Question…who/what is ClowncilWatch??? Sounds like a really sad, angry person. Feel sorry for whoever/whatever it is.

    • Anonymous said

      How are comments made by ClowncilWatch any more sad or angry than those of Chris Watts? Just a different target in my mind.

    • Anonymous said

      My best guess would be a defeated candidate from the last election who was unable to keep a Blog & has resorted to poaching on those of others & trying other social media. Just a guess though.

    • Anonymous said

      You’re right, 9:14, and you can add Matt Maddocks and Dave Heard to the list of the Usual Suspects.

    • Anonymous said

      okay 8:13….. I can’t think of a defeated candidate that had a blog…. who are you guessing?

    • Anonymous said

      Sorry. Who or what is the target of the ClowncilWatch ? Is it targeting Council members as individuals or the entire Council?

    • Anonymous said

      To 8:13 PM
      Do you mean that guy who pretended he wasn’t running with Morris & Ballard? No one believed him & apparently his signage was arrogant although I don’t know what that meant. That guy?

    • Resident said

      Actually the ClowncilWatch comments are coming from an anonymous source – sort of cowardly don’t you think. Chris stands by his words courageous enough to face any criticism (or praise) – why isn’t clowncilwatch don’t they want to bask in their praise?

  3. Anonymous said

    My how the tables have turned. It would appear that all those Evil Leaners that were appalled at the nasty things said about Phyllis during the last term leading up to the election have no qualms about bad mouthing present and former politicians when tweeting on ‘clowncil’.

    • Anonymous said

      12:55 PM
      Could you define ‘ all ‘ in that context, please ? I do not understand about tweeting but have heard that the # involved on ” clowncil ” is miniscule & self-reinforcing. Is that correct?

    • Anonymous said

      that would be a good description, you could throw in self-important as well.

  4. Anonymous said

    Surely now there must be enough judicial decisions for Aurora to pressure the insurance company to settle with Evelyn. We need to start putting all this past garbage to rest and get on with dealing with whatever problems aurora might have NOW.

    • Anonymous said

      I think that both parties need to agree to settle. EB will not. She will milk this Town for everything that she can with a false sense of entittlement.

    • Just Asking said

      And you know this how? From what I have learned, subject to correction, those involved may be liable rather than the town. Check with the local legal experts SVP.

    • Anonymous said

      4:04 PM
      If both parties need to agree to settle, it is necessary that they first meet for examinations of discovery. The last time I heard anything about Councillor Buck’s lawsuit indicated that the newspaper and Ms Buck had been examined. Period.

    • Anonymous said

      This is total hog-wash. If anyone is feeling ‘ entitled ‘, it sure isn’t Evelyn.
      P.S. I think there is only one ‘t’ in the middle of that word?

    • Anonymous said

      Thanks to 9:34 for keeping this topic on track. Hard to imagine a world with perfect spelling but this post goes a long way to getting there.

      To “Just Asking”, if you do a little research, you will find that defendants’ legal representation in EB’s suit are being funded by the Town’s insurance. Have you ever made an insurance claim? What happens to your premiums when you did?

    • Just Asking said

      I realize their representation falls under Town insurance, although that should not be the case IMO. If the cost were worrying any of the defendants, & there is no sign of that, they can settle. That lawsuit began before either of the other 2 which are already in judicial hands. There is no excuse for this single one to be stalled. Aurora needs to politely ask the insurance company to get off its duff.

    • Anonymous said

      I think this is an excellent subject. It is time for the last legal hurdle from the past council to be removed. What I fail to understand is how the various defendants explain to their families what the lawsuit is charging them with having done.

  5. Anonymous said

    I read in The Auroran that Morris’ lawyer claims she did not know what law firm would be selected and that the former Town Solicitor made that decision. There was no affidavit from the former Town Solicitor, and Aird & Berlis partners were on a first name basis with Morris. So we believe who?

  6. Anonymous said

    I am appalled that 2 sitting councillors would be present at a conflict of interest hearing of a mayor, one of whom who actually voted at the meeting in support of said mayor which gave rise to the whole question of possible conflict of interest. I don’t care how friendly they are, it is inappropriate. It would serve their best interests and ours to at least be seen as impartial in a matter such as this. I hope it is raised at the next council meeting. Perhaps a complaint about their conduct should be launched, especially as they are both so passionate about having a code ofconduct!

  7. Anonymous said

    I followed activities of the previous council during its term and then the litigation, instigated by the ex-mayor with support of a majority group of councillors since 2010. Now that a decision has been reached and her so-called defamation lawsuit has been deemed a SLAPP suit, there are words that I associate with Phyllis Morris, none of which is flattering: vindictive, abusive, paranoia, bullying, failure to mention a few. However, there is a phrase that has stuck in my mind since the failed complaint against councillor Buck to the then integrity commissioner. He judged the complaint to be “ill-formed, without merit.” I think perhaps that the same general phraseology was also used in the media in reference to the infamous lawsuit.

    It struck me yesterday that a fitting descriptionof the ex-mayor and her legacy might read, “Morris: mayor without merit.”

    I would go so far as to say the same for the not-so-merry band of councillors who supported her “unmeritorious” term in office.

  8. Anonymous said

    Until I broke myself of the habit, I used to spend uneasy sleepless periods at night trying to figure out how many ways that lucrative $6,000,000 was to be split. I would begin with members of the inner circle, assign a random number to each and then move out to the movers and shakers around town. That was a whacking amount of money to be sub-divided.

  9. Anonymous said

    Most people who aspire to succeed in a given field, such as business, athletics, politics, or the arts, usually seek out a person or persons who have been successful, so that from such success the aspirant may learn, and over a period of time become successful in his or her own right.

    It is therefore extremely puzzling to note that Aurora Councillor Chris Ballard was in attendance at Friday’s court hearing in the matter of former mayor Morris’ alleged conflict of interest while in office.

    The former mayor has been on the losing side of two significant judicial decisions – most recently, that her defamation action constituted SLAPP litigation. This is an attempt to silence critics and deprive individuals of their constitutional right of freedom of expression.

    To what advantage does Councillor Ballard align himself with the former mayor? His background and experience, as taken from the words on his own website, do not indicate a man who lies down with losers. When taken in the context of his alliances on Aurora Council, with the two weakest and most shallow individuals, one wonders whether elected office has seriously affected his thought processes.

    I feel really sorry for him, wish him well, and trust that upon his departure from public office his thinking ability returns to normal.

    • Anonymous said

      Hey, I’d never vote for the guy, but maybe he’s just loyal … to a fault, it would seem.

    • Anonymous said

      SO there were councillors there….. who from Aurora Citizen was there? What does the case have to do with it?

    • No one from the AuroraCitizen was in attendance. The 2 cases are not connected — except by Phyllis Morris.

      Possibly the Judge felt that 2 cases were related because the alleged COI took place while initiating the SLAPP lawsuit. But that’s just a guess.

      However, what can be confirmed about the Judges decision is that she did feel the SLAPP case was relevant — hence allowed it to be included in evidence. The AuroraCitizen had nothing to do with her making that decision.

    • Anonymous said

      9:37 AM
      Perhaps you are confused ? There were 2 people at the hearing from The Auroran. None from the Aurora Citizen. One former Mayor, one former Councillor, 2 sitting Councillors etc.

    • Anonymous said

      Wonder if Judge Gilmore will make it three for three?

  10. Just Asking said

    Did they think because it was in Newmarket that we would not notice? But then Ballard regards Aurorans as ‘rubes’ only interested in snow plowing.

  11. anonymous said

    Mr O’Melia’s clock is ticking. This must be about his 4th trip from Kitchener/ Waterloo to deal with Morris’ case. Friday he had time to drive for 11 AM but for other 9 AM hearings he might have had to spend the night. I am fairly sure, not positive, that Aurora is not paying the freight. Question has to be, ” Who is? “

  12. anonymous said

    The Conflict of Interest that I see quite clearly is that of Ballard, Gallo & Gaertner. If Councillor Thompson does introduce a motion to try & collect money &/or an apology from Morris, they should be required to sit out in the Lobby during that process. It is time to call them on anything having to do with that ill-fated Defamation Lawsuit. It was SLAPP and should only be referred to in that manner.

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