Collapse of defamation lawsuit
The press release, several weeks ago, by Colin Haime, Denise Haime and John Coulson following the collapse and withdrawal of their defamation claim against Jennifer Millbank, David Scott and Graham Savage; and Denise Haime raising the issue again during the March 12th 2018 Council meeting deserve a response and clarification.
The Haime/Coulson press release appears to have been written out of frustration, in haste and just one day after the claim collapsed and was withdrawn.
Prior to filing the defamation lawsuit against us the Haimes and Coulson also pursued criminal charges through the RCMP. Not surprisingly nothing came of this.
The defamation lawsuit against us was commenced in part due to our 2015 community mailout informing of, what in our view was a serious problem with Council and of a staff memo to Council expressing concerns about the way they were being treated. We sent out the mailout due to our frustration over lack of appropriate action to address the staff concerns. We felt it important to acknowledge and address staff’s concerns and to inform the community of what was in our view, an intolerable council environment.
It was the right thing to do and under similar circumstances……we’d do the very same thing again.
The Districts Indemnification Bylaw provides for the legal defense of staff, councilors or former councilors in the event of legal challenge. The indemnity bylaw is so very important to protect against false and intimidating actions, which we believe was the case in this instance. Whistleblower protection comes to mind.
The defamation lawsuit was withdrawn just one day prior to discovery. Discovery is a formal procedure where lawyers can question those involved in the case prior to proceeding to court trial. This lawsuit was withdrawn prior to discovery and after the Haimes, Coulson and their Lawyer had reviewed our defense documentation. It defies logic why they would abandon what they believe to be a ‘winning’ lawsuit prior to discovery. Individuals who are convinced they have a ‘winning’ lawsuit generally push through to obtain a suitable financial settlement or confidently proceed to trial. Otherwise, why bother.
Residents can decide if they believe the withdrawal was to avoid incurring additional costs to the community as stated in the Haime/Coulson press release, or as we believe, because the defamation action had no chance of success. If the action had proceeded to trial, would have claimed our defense costs to offset costs to the community.
The Haime/Coulson press release stated that Councilor Neary voted in support of the District paying the costs for the defense of the legal action because “she is related to Graham Savage”. For clarification, Councilor Neary is Graham Savage’s – cousin’s – husbands – brothers- daughter. !!! It’s a stretch to say they are related, however, it was an attempt to discredit Councilor Neary.
Though we are pleased but not surprised that the defamation lawsuit collapsed, the real winner is freedom of speech. Criticism of decision makers in the manner we chose was clearly not defamatory. Ours were fair comments and deemed as qualified privilege in the eyes of the law. We were quite prepared to risk substantial stress, disruption, public exposure and possible personal financial exposure, to continue through to a court trial. Our integrity remains intact.
The community can be assured that the withdrawal of the defamation action was without conditions. No payment or apologies of any kind were provided.
Since the election in late 2014 our community has been bogged down with legal actions, threats of legal action, senior staff and councilor resignations; a by- election and 5 different CAO’s. We believe the community deserve better than this.
Graham Savage; Jennifer Millbank; David Scott