Leading up to the 2010 election former Aurora Mayor Phyllis Morris tried to make her critics her bitch only it backfired on her, and with dramatic effect.
The most recent and final ruling in the lawsuit the former mayor initiated in her capacity as mayor on citizens with tax payers money was defined for what it was a SLAPP action.
It has been covered by the Toronto Star here:
and more locally, in the Error Banner:
You can read Master Hawkins’ ruling here:
I have extracted the following sections that I fount particularly enlightening:
(27) The following evidence before me is uncontradicted.
Mayor Morris brought this action expressly in her capacity as Mayor of the Corporation of the Town of Aurora. Initially and up to December 14,2010 she had access to municipal money to fund this litigation.
The action was commenced without any prior demand letter to Johnson, Hogg or Bishden from Mayor Morris or her lawyers.
The action was commenced without complying with the notice provisions of the Libel and Slander Act, R.S.O. 1990 ch. L-12 respecting broadcasts.
The action was commenced less than three weeks prior to the municipal election in which Mayor Morris was seeking a second term as mayor.
The action was commenced by notice of action rather than by statement of claim.
In her notice of action Mayor Morris expressly sought damages of $6,000,000 from the defendants. In an action for damages it is unusual for the plaintiff to claim the specific amount of damages in the notice of action.
The notice of action was served on the defendants Johnson, Hoff and Bishden immediately and without any statement of claim, in contravention of subrule 14.03 (4).
(28) I infer from these facts that Mayor Morris was not prepared to wait and see if a demand letter would have the desired effect of silencing Johnson, Hogg and Bishden, and not prepared to wait until her lawyers prepared a statement of claim. In my view, Mayor Morris wanted to hit Johnson, Hogg and Bishden quickly and hard, in order to silence them as her critics sooner rather than later in the weeks leading up to the October 25, 2010 municipal elections.
(29) I have therefore come to the conclusion that this action is indeed SLAPP litigation.
(32) Because I regard this action as SLAPP ligation designed to stifle debate about Mayor Morris’ fitness for office, commenced during her re-election campaign, I award Johnon and Hogg special enhanced costs.
This ruling reinforces for me what I suspected all along, that Morris engaged in a despicable and inexcusable gross abuse of power. I have shared my views on this disgraceful mess in three previous posts here:
While we wait for others to weigh in on the matter you can do so at the Aurora Citizen. A new post in their forum which already has over 40 comments:
It was reported this week that Council is contemplating seeking an apology from the former, and now disgraced mayor. You can read the Error Banner piece on that here:
Although I applaud Clr. Thompson’s notice of motion, and believe that an apology is overdue I would question the sincerity of an apology from someone who help political office that engaged in a SLAPP lawsuit against those who they were elected to represent.
What I’m more interested in hearing are the responses from those who have been the most vocal in supporting this action, including 3 current councilors : Chris Ballard. Wendy Gaertner and John Gallo.
Both Gaertner and Gallo are cling-on councilors from last term that voted in favor of launching the lawsuit that threw their hands in the air and said “whoops” we didn’t know that there was going to be a lawsuit.
I call Bullshit!
But these 3 Clowncilors were not the only supporters, let’s review a couple other local letter writers:
Catharine Marshall wrote numerous letters to the Auroran in support of the lawsuit, I commented on these in two previous posts, here:
There certainly was a big discrepancy between who Vander Veen perceived the victim in this case to be and who the courts did.
This ruling removes any lingering doubt as to the validity of the action, which Mr. Vander Veen considered to be the cardinal aspect, and helps to emphasize the extreme error in judgement of previous town councillors MacHeckron, Gallo, Gaertner, Granger and Wilson .
Lastly Guy Poppe should be more than pleased with this ruling given is letter to the Auroran on August 30th 2005, which read:
“while I, too, do not like our money misspent, I have no problem when it comes to ensuring our citizens’ constitutional rights are met.”
Given the seriousness of this SLAPP action, which by its nature sought to restrict Aurorans’ constitutional right to freedom of speech in a particularly nasty and malicious way, as a community we should question their motivations, scrutinize their thought processes, and determine if they are capable of judging how to place the community’s needs before personal gain.
Any half-baked excuses by any of the above should be met simply with the response: