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Councillor calls for municipality to stop funding CAO lawsuit
By Paul Jankowski
Posted 1 hour ago
A South Bruce Peninsula councillor wants the municipality to cease any further funding of a lawsuit launched by chief administrative officer Rhonda Cook against the Bruce on the Bruce blog.
A notice of motion presented by Coun. Janice Jackson at Tuesday’s council meeting — but not read aloud as is the usual practice — reads:
“That effective immediately, the Municipality will cease to fund the blog lawsuit on behalf of Rhonda Cook.
“And that the lawyer(s) representing this case on behalf of Rhonda Cook will be notified within 24 hours that the Municipality will no longer pay legal fees regarding this matter.
“And that with Council scrutiny and approval, one final invoice for legal work completed to this day be submitted to and reconciled with the Municipality by March 30, 2012.
“And further that no additional invoices will be accepted regarding this claim.”
Under council procedure the motion should be voted on at the next council meeting, scheduled for March 20, Jackson said.
She said she isn’t asking for further deliberations by council about the matter.
“I’m clearly asking for a vote to end it immediately. There’s no discussion, I’m not asking for that. We’ve had plenty of that already.”
Jackson speculated her notice of motion might not have been read aloud “just because there’s been so many closed session conversations about this issue that, I don’t know, maybe it’s getting foggy what should be in closed and what should be in open.”
Cook launched a defamation suit in January against John Schnurr, Western International Publications, which is based in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Craig Gammie and Rick Lyttle and Orma Lyttle seeking a total of $700,000 in damages for comments posted on Bruce on the Bruce, found online at bruceonthebruce.wordpress.com.
South Bruce Peninsula Mayor John Close would not comment earlier this week on the municipality’s financial involvement in the lawsuit.
Council, however, agreed in February 2011 to pay the legal costs to that date for identifying contributors to an unnamed blog. Minutes of a special council meeting held Feb. 12, 2012, quote Coun. Jay Kirkland, who was chairing the meeting, as saying the towns proposed legal budget for this fiscal year includes $60,000 for “blog.”
Schnurr, in a statement of defence and a counterclaim filed Feb. 23, asked for $250,000 in general damages, another $250,000 in “punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages” from Cook and the municipality and “special damages” of $250,000 from the town for “champerty and maintenance.”
Champerty and maintenance are legal terms referring to someone not directly a party to a lawsuit bankrolling or otherwise interfering in the legal proceedings for an improper motive.
Gammie has also filed a statement of defence, which does not include a counterclaim.