City Councillor Terry Whitehead has lost a $15,000 defamation suit that was filed against him by Free Flamborough chairman Roman Sarachman, The Spectator has reported, in a judgment handed down yesterday.
Justice James Turnbull ruled that Whitehead libelled Free Flamborough chairman Roman Sarachman when the councillor called Sarachman a "destructive, mean-spirited, irrational liar that does not deserve the time of day" in a May 2008 email copied to council.
"It is not in the best interests of the city that councillors address taxpayers in such derogatory and unfair terms," Turnbull wrote in a judgment handed down Monday morning. "It is incomprehensible that an email with such comments fell within the scope of his duties as a city councillor."
Whitehead sent the email to the mayor and city councillors as a debate raged in Flamborough over whether revenue from the Flamboro Downs racetrack should be retained by Flamborough or distributed throughout the entire city. At a meeting on May 7, 2008 that was attended by more than 1,000 residents, Whitehead says he was criticized, threatened, and spat on. During his trial, he testified that he viewed Sarachman as the "the head of the snake" who inflamed anger among Flamborough residents.
Whitehead's costs will be covered by the City, The Spec reports:
City solicitor Peter Barkwell says Whitehead's costs are being covered because his case comes within the terms of the city's indemnification bylaw. That means the city's legal department and insurers feel Whitehead was acting within the scope of his duties as a councillor and acting in good faith when he sent the email.
But in his judgment, Turnbull says Whitehead's words did not meet either of those criteria.
"The defendant testified that he sent the impugned email message in good faith and in honest belief in the truth of its contents, with a view to the best interests of the city, and within the scope of his duties as a city councillor," Turnbull's judgment reads. "I absolutely reject that evidence as it relates to the defamatory words."
Council ultimately voted to distribute revenue from Flamboro Downs across the city, with Flamborough receiving the lion's share: about half of the $1.5 million in annual revenues.
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