Craig’s Commentary Volume 1 Number 56


Wish To Silence Citizens Gets TSBP Councillor Into Hall of Shame

 

Editor, Wiarton Echo:

 

TSBP Councillor Jim Turner would like to issue a gag order prohibiting the people of TSBP from criticizing the mayor, or a councillor, or staff (November 29 Wiarton Echo column “On the Other Hand”).

 

The councillor attempts to justify the proposed restriction on freedom of speech with false allegations leveled at someone the councillor refers to as “the Denialist”.  I am not named in the column, but it is nevertheless absolutely clear that I am the “Denialist”.

 

The councillor has publicly made serious false allegations about me.  I have little choice but to provide a public rebuttal.

 

Here are the councillor’s mistruths:

 

Mistruth # 1

 

The councillor says: “This Denialist uses e-mail, letters, the internet and confrontation to promote his views.  This has resulted in confrontations of town staff on the streets of our town.”

 

The “confrontation” part is an outright lie.  I have had only one conversation with “staff on the streets of our town”.  The conversation was about a private matter, not a TSBP matter, and was amicable, not confrontational. Councillor Turner was not present.  I see the councillor’s claim as malicious, false, and libelous.

 

Mistruth # 2

 

The councillor says: “ [Use of] e-mail, letters, the internet and confrontation to promote his views …has resulted in confrontations of town staff  …in  town hall.”    

 

Here too, the “confrontations” part is a lie.  There have been conversations.  And there has been debate.  But to suggest that there were “confrontations” is to suggest that there was impropriety.  The Councillor did not and cannot back up his claim.

 

Mistruth # 3

 

The councillor says; “there have been documented complaints.“

 

I know of none, but it’s possible that there has been documentation.  But the fact of complaints does not accord those complaints merit. So until the complaints are properly filed and evaluated before a competent unbiased tribunal, and found to have merit, the councillor’s claim is nothing but malicious gossip.

 

Mistruth # 4

 

The councillor says:                                                                                                                                                     “Our treasurer has been called a liar

 

Not true.  I demonstrated that the treasurer got some numbers wrong, and I stand by my comments.  I also provided, and fully supported, corrected numbers.  There is nothing wrong with that.  The councillor’s claim is false.

 

Mistruth # 5                                                                                                                                

 

The councillor says I called “other staff members incompetent”.  

 

The councillor seems to be saying, without a hint of support, that I lied.  I have, in fact suggested that some staff members have done things inappropriately, and that some have made errors.  I stand by my comments.  The councillor’s implied allegation is false and malicious.

 

Mistruth # 6

 

The councillor says that I was wrong when I indicated that staff altered the record in order to promote an agenda.  The Councillor also indicates that he can prove I was wrong. 

 

I take that to mean that the councillor is saying I lied.  I did not.  I did say staff altered the record and I backed that up thoroughly with analysis and a  strong case.  I stand by my analysis and my comments.  The councillor, on the other hand, claimed he could prove I was wrong but offered no proof, and I submit cannot prove that I was wrong.  No argument, no excerpts from minutes, no transcripts of the audio record, no proof.  I see the councillor’s claim as another malicious falsehood.

 

 

Mistruth # 7 

 

The councillor claims “this Denialist and a few cohorts have cost the people of this town, by some accounts, over a million dollars in delays on one or two projects alone

 

In my view this is the most outrageous of all of the councillor’s false accusations.  And just like the councillor’s other lies, it is unsupportable and unsupported.

 

This same false allegation has been made by former councillor Mark Wunderlich on at least two occasions, including at both 2010 Sauble sewer public meetings, by former Mayor Carl Noble on several occasions including several 2006 letters to the Wiarton Echo, by CAO Rhonda Cook in a report to council, and by 2010 ward three candidate Jessica Huzak at the Sauble all-candidates meeting in 2010.  Ms. Huzak’s comment is on a public audio record.  Carl Noble’s letters are in the records of the Wiarton Echo.  Rhonda Cook’s comments are in the Committee of the Whole agenda package of August 16, 2011.

 

Regardless of how many people repeated the lie, it’s still a lie.   And it’s harmful.  .

 

One of the projects I and my “cohorts” are accused of delaying and adding hundreds of thousands of dollars of costs to is the Sauble area small water systems upgrades project.  The false allegation is exposed and rebutted in my draft report on the project. The report is not finished, but I put it on my website in draft form to counter the false allegations.

 

The councillor’s insertion of “by some accounts” does not make his claim any less of a falsehood.  In my view it is clear that the councillor himself is claiming that part II order requesters have cost the people over a million dollars by delaying projects.

 

Mistruth # 8

 

The councillor claims that “on a continuing basis [the Denialist] causes valuable staff time amounting to thousands of dollars to be spent on their actions rather than on the needs of all the taxpayers.”

 

Once again, the councillor is making an unsupported and unsupportable false claim.  The councillor has not shown and cannot show that I inappropriately used staff time.  And there is no explanation by the councillor of how I got staff to take action to the detriment of the inhabitants of TSBP.  Am I accused of coercion?  Blackmail?  Bribery?  The councillor’s accusations will not stand up to scrutiny and he knows it.   The accusation that I cost taxpayers money is absurd, false, and defamatory.

 

Mistruth # 9

 

The councillor claims that “This person attends council and committee meetings, often to voice opinion as facts“.

 

I don’t know what the councillor’s point is in saying that I “voice opinion as facts”.  But given the context f the rest of his column, he seems to be suggesting dishonesty on my part. 

 

The implication of dishonesty is absurd, and would be absurd no matter who it was directed at.  Like others, I voice opinions on occasion.  But mostly I write argumentative essays.  When I present facts I am not expressing opinion.  I have never said or implied that my opinion is fact.   

 

Mistruth # 10                                                                                                                              

 

The councillor says that in meetings I claim to be an expert.  

 

Again in the context of the other allegations, it appears that the councillor is saying I misrepresent my qualifications.   This implied claim is false, unsupported, and outrageous.   I have not misrepresented my “expertise”.  Furthermore, the councillor is in no position to understand, comment on, or judge my “expertise”, or my qualifications.    

 

Mistruth # 11 

 

The councillor says “and the staff now has to check the corridors and benches in town hall to see if anyone’s there listening, possibly recording conversations, before discussing private issues with citizens.”

 

It appears that here the councillor is accusing me of some kind of illegal eavesdropping. This, in my view, is groundless, baseless, libelous defamation.

 

 

In saying “I can’t identify this person here because if I name them the editor will have to delete the name to avoid possible legal repercussions” the Councillor suggests that he believes that you can defame anyone with impunity as long as you don’t name the person.  That’s incorrect. Toronto lawyer Randy A. Pepper writes:

“In order to succeed in a defamation action, a plaintiff must show that the words are published about the plaintiff and that they actually defame the plaintiff. The test in every case is whether the words would be understood by reasonable people to refer to the plaintiff. If reasonable people would recognize the plaintiff, it does not matter that he or she is referred to by initials or asterisks, by a fictitious name, or by some physical peculiarity or the like. Indeed, the plaintiff need not be named at all. Nor is it necessary that everyone who reads the words recognize the plaintiff. The plaintiff need only show that the defamatory words were published to at least some ordinary, sensible readers whose knowledge of special facts would reasonably lead them to believe that the words were about the plaintiff.”  (bold added)  http://www.pepperlegal.com/defamation.htm

 

Having been truthful is a sufficient defense against a libelous defamation action.  So if the councillor’s claims were true, and thus not defamatory, he could name me as the “Denialist” without any fear of legal repercussions.  In saying “I can’t identify this person here because if I name them the editor will have to delete the name to avoid possible legal repercussions”, the councillor is implicitly admitting that his claims are untrue and that his column is defamatory.

 

The inhabitants of the Town of South Bruce Peninsula have the Charter-ingrained right to participate in policy making, to express their views, to comment on the actions of staff and elected officials, and even to criticize.

 

In saying “There is no price you can put on freedom of speech but on the other hand this behavior makes me want to do something I hate doing – pass a law!”, the councillor is making it clear that any citizen who dares to comment on the council and staff shenanigans that some council members are trying to pass off as governance will face serious consequences.

 

The councillor’s “chill tactic” won’t work.

 

But the bullying nature of his column did get Mr. Turner formally inducted into the TSBP “hall of shame”, joining John Close (see my commentary number 16 on craiggammie.com), CAO Rhonda Cook (see commentary 32 ), and several members of the Economic Development Committee (see commentary 47). 

 

 

Craig Gammie

SaubleBeach