Madawaska Valley Council and the Township have suffered another setback in their attempt to stop a lawsuit against them alleging abuse of power and defamation brought by The Current and its owners. They had appealed the Decision of Justice Doyle dated August 6 2021 which dismissed MV’s attempt to “strike out” (i.e. stop) the legal proceeding through use of a gag order. Click HERE for earlier report. The appeal was argued before three Justices of the Ontario Court of Appeal on May 26 2022 and their Decision was released on Monday of this week. The dismissal of the appeal was a unanimous decision.
The Agenda of the MV Council in Committee meeting held Tuesday June 7 was amended at the last moment to include an in camera update from Wishart Law on “Court File No. CV-21-00000002-0000.” The phrase is routinely used by Council to refer to this lawsuit. If Council had not been immediately made aware of the outcome of the appeal when the Decision was released on Monday, they certainly learned of it during the in camera update they received the following day but no mention of it was made by Mayor Love, who had previously advised residents of the appeal, when Council returned to open session.
In Court on May 26 lawyer Paul Cassan put forward several grounds why MV’s appeal should be allowed, each of which the Court of Appeal Justices considered and then rejected with reasons in a ten-page Decision. In their summary of the facts, they made reference to there having been a history of “considerable ill will on both sides.” They also – as had Justice Doyle – referred to the offer from The Current’s publisher to take no legal steps in exchange for an apology and a donation of $500 to the St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation. The Current and its owners were represented by Justin Safayeni and Karen Bernofsky of the Toronto law firm, Stockwoods.
This constitutes the second unsuccessful attempt by MV Council and the Township to overturn an order made by Justice Doyle. The previous one related to an Order she made requiring CAO Sue Klatt to re-attend for cross-examination and produce documents that she had refused to disclose. Wishart Law’s application to be allowed to appeal her Order in the Divisional Court was immediately withdrawn following a preliminary case conference by a Divisional Court Justice who described it as wasting the time of three Justices and [their] clients’ money.
Submissions will now be made to the Court of Appeal on responsibility for payment of the costs associated with the appeal.
We couldn’t agree with you more Monica!!
Btw, they did not need to retain Wishart Law for this case:- it could have been handled much more cheaply and effectively by a general civil-practice local lawyer in Pembroke or Ottawa:- for example, Girones Lawyers in Kanata constantly advertises on 104.9 CIMY-FM out of Pembroke and might offer a much more economical alternative to the Township. Wishart Law is a high-priced specialist in municipal law which charges much more for everything:- perhaps the ratepayers need to contact the insurer to ask them to force a switch to a lower-cost local lawyer and also to take the case to mediation:- I certainly don’t like the idea of paying higher taxes for the higher future insurance premiums which will follow this case when resolved. If the Plaintiff eventually loses their case and is assessed for costs they might get an estimate from a local lawyer for how much it should have cost the Township which will no doubt be very much less than Wishart has been charging and the insurer will be left “holding the bag” for the rest unless they decide to counter-sue the Township for unnecessarily escalating this case at their expense:- hopefully at some point common-sense will prevail.
This continuing and costly story comes down to people not remembering their most basic and obvious duty: to act in the public interest. It is easy (and right) to place some blame on the lawyers for the Township but when a firm has a seemingly endless supply of public funds available to them the expectation is that they will exploit the opportunity for all it’s worth. No, the real responsibility lays with the client who has time and again decided that pursuing this matter was in the public interest. I am disappointed with the Council and while they may have their fair share of stubborn rubes or gullible half-wits, there are I think a majority of people on there that are well read, sane and interested in somehow getting out of this situation. Lady and gentlemen when you are in a hole and want to get out- you have to first stop digging! Engage new legal advice, settle, and end this expensive legal charade.
Michael McCloskey but wouldn’t that first require some swallowing pride and admitting they were wrong? You have more faith in their maturity levels than do I.
Perhaps the Province should require each rural County Council to establish a County Solicitor’s department with at least one full time salaried lawyer and require Township Councils to obtain their legal services only through these County Solicitors:- at least this will encourage local Councils not to escalate minor legal disputes into major and costly legal actions and temper their propensity for being excessively litigious. The insurance is not “free” and no doubt the insurance company will punish ratepayers in the future with higher premiums. I’m a bit appalled at how a minor legal dispute can escalate so much and so expensively with the ratepayers paying for it, win or lose.
Now, for the sake of the citizens and ratepayers of the Madawaska Valley, will Council please STOP WASTING OUR MONEY! Please focus your efforts on the business at hand and stop your retaliatory and bullying behaviour. We, the citizens, will remember your behaviour and conduct at election time.
This is good news!