Options For Terry

By Adrian Duyzer
Published May 21, 2011

Since losing a defamation suit to the tune of $15,000 in damages that the city will cover, Councillor Terry Whitehead has endured a rather public drubbing by citizens and the media.

Hamilton taxpayers are understandably upset that they're on the hook because the city's legal department decided the defamatory email was sent in good faith while fulfilling his duties as councillor, even though the judge in the case explicitly rejected that notion.

Whitehead has said he'll have a fundraiser to try and return the money, an idea that's been panned. I think it's a safe bet that most Hamiltonians would prefer he just pay back the money, but so far he doesn't seem inclined to do so.

It's important to note that a $15,000 hit to the family finances is nothing to sneeze at, and Whitehead does have a family - a wife and four kids, according to his website. I'm married too, and if there's one thing I know about Whitehead's situation right now, it's that he's not the only person making a decision about the $15,000: any decision is going to involve his wife and maybe other family members, too.

At the same time, if I were in Whitehead's situation I think I'd feel an ethical imperative to make the situation right. So between simply paying back the $15,000 out of his own personal finances and holding a fundraiser where other people pay it for him, what are his options?

Pay Back Part Of It Now

Immediately paying back some non-trivial portion of the sum - either half or one-third - would go a long way to repairing his image. Announcing that he's going to pay $5,000 of it out of his own finances, and that he'd look at other options for helping repay more of it, would show that he's sharing some of the pain and that he's serious about making things right.

It wouldn't be nearly as big of a bite out of the family finances as the whole shebang, so it's an easier sell on that side of things too.

Pay It Back Over Time

Councillors make decent salaries. Whitehead could divert some small percentage of each paycheque to repaying all or part of the $15,000. That said, $15,000 is quite a bit of cash: it might take a while.

Match The Fundraiser's Funds

I find it hard to believe that a fundraiser to pay back the $15,000 would be all that well-attended. I suppose anything's possible, but I'll only donate money to fund legal bills if I believe the person is unjustly charged or convicted. Even Whitehead's most ardent supporters may find the prospect of a fundraiser to cover his legal penalty a less-than-inspiring reason to open up their wallets.

On the other hand, if Whitehead committed to matching whatever the fundraiser raised, dollar for dollar, the goal of the fundraiser would only have to be half as high, and the fact he'd be enduring a little pain would likely increase the likelihood of actually receiving donations. And he'd end up looking pretty good by the end of it.

There's Always Options

My point is that there are always creative ways to help satisfy an ethical obligation. If Whitehead wants to satisfy that obligation, he's got lots of options. I hope he pursues one of them.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By realfreeenterpriser (registered) | Posted May 21, 2011 at 22:40:20

Although Whitehead's romance with his own words is legendary, he's not as stupid as he looks or sounds. He's managed to portray his indebtness to taxpayers as only $15,000. when, in fact, it's all that PLUS his legal costs AND those of the plaintiff which would be, far and away, greater amounts.

Whitehead has about 3 and a half years left in this term of office. A contribution of about $85.00 a week would, at least, cover the damages assessed by the court.

My guess is that Whitehead doesn't even have enough class to do that and I'd bet the farm that we'll never see a dime of anyone's legal costs.

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By How's This for an Option (anonymous) | Posted May 22, 2011 at 09:43:02

Maybe the dud-meister who launched the lawsuit should give it back to the taxpayer rather than collecting it...how's that for an option?

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted May 23, 2011 at 10:38:27 in reply to Comment 63888

Seriously... Sounds like he's never heard of the Streisand Effect.

And, to be fair to Whitehead, everything I've read about Roman Sarachman indicates that he is, in fact, a destructive mean spirited irrational liar.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted May 23, 2011 at 01:17:49

That is a quite an assumption " Hamilton taxpayers are understandably upset that they're on the hook because the city's legal department decided the defamatory email was sent in good faith while fulfilling his duties as councillor, even though the judge in the case explicitly rejected that notion." How many taxpayers are upset? How many even care? For a city the with a budget the size of Hamilton ($1.3 billion) the $15,000 settlement and the legal fees are a very, very small drop in the bucket. One of the city's lawyers defended him and they are on staff anyway so that cost is negligible. The city wastes a lot more than the $15,000 that was awarded. How much is the city on the hook for in the 2 way conversion of York Blvd? Now that is a huge waste of money. The legal department had to make a decision before they knew how the judge would see things and rule. In fact a different judge might have ruled the opposite. The small size of the award is a hint that although the judge found the councilor guilty he did not thing it was that big a deal. Especially since claim was for $7000,000. Maybe the councilor can pay the award out of his office budget? I have talked to a number of people who live in the city of Hamilton and exactly one of them was upset about this. The fact that he used to live in Flamboruogh before moving to Dundas just might have influenced his opinion. I am sure that some people are in fact upset about this but no matter what happens somebody is going to be upset about it. You are making a mountain out of a very small molehill. Two separate blogs entries in 4 days about this very trivial incident.

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By Fed Up (anonymous) | Posted May 23, 2011 at 16:30:21 in reply to Comment 63892

I'm getting really tired of the "Drop in the bucket" defense for irresponsible spending. Add all those drops over a Council's 4 year term and I'm quite certain we'd have a meaningful amount. Not to mention all the staff time and energy wasted on this and other messes that Council has caused.

Whitehead should pay the award and any legal fees out of his own pocket. Even if it takes him 20 years.

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By Dickie Schnadams (anonymous) | Posted May 23, 2011 at 11:08:15 in reply to Comment 63892

Really!? REALLY!? A mountain of a (very small) molehill!? This is just ONE example of council and/or mayor 'pissin' away tax dollars... $15, 000 this time, plus the $10, 000 the Mayor gave to United Way, plus who knows what that we don't know about! "The city wastes a lot more than the $15,000 that was awarded..."

"The small size of the award is a hint that although the judge found the councilor guilty he did not thing it was that big a deal. Especially since claim was for $7000,000." These statements tell me that Mr. Meister, (A)doesn't spell check, (B) doesn't know how to express big number properly - is that 7 million? (7,000,000 7 000,000 or 7 000 000 are all options that would have been a little bit more clear), and (C) Everyone seems to be acting like babies!

That kind of language is not professional, I don't care what profession you are in! So, I am questioning the judgement of council, who "decided the defamatory email was sent in good faith while fulfilling his duties as councillor, even though the judge in the case explicitly rejected that notion." -- And, I am wondering why the council and/or mayor and Giant Companies such as Hydro, can BREAK THE LAW and get the taxpayers to cover the costs; the same taxpayers who cannot afford to visit the dentist or buy new contacts because they do not have benefits; the same taxpayers who MAKE TOO MUCH MONEY TO RECEIVE HST REBATES, who, in fact, HAVE TO PAY THE GOVERNMENT MORE MONEY; the same taxpayers who cannot afford to buy food that makes them healthy because the cost of living keeps going up, but paychecks stay the same, BUT, heck, let's pay the Councilman's debts!

For people who are supposed to care about their city's residents, they sure do a crappy job convincing us that this is the case!

As for, "Who even cares?"... I think that is the wrong question... the question that should be asked is, "Who even knows?" Well, I'm going to do more to promote sites, such as Raise the Hammer, so that people in this city are more informed... Though I have to say, I am much happier not knowing about the silliness that goes on... Ignorance REALLY IS bliss, unfortunately, it is an invitation to keep the Status Quo.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted May 23, 2011 at 17:43:56 in reply to Comment 63897

WOW what a rant. You went on about how I expressed Seven Million Dollars but you knew exactly what I meant, so I was pretty clear about what I meant. Unless of course you feel that you are the only one capable of figuring out that $7000,000 is really $7,000,000 and everybody else on this site is an idiot and needed you to translate it for them. Is that your big objection that I forgot a coma? Spell check? I did not know there was a spell check on this site. How do I access it? Or do I need to write it in Word and then transfer it to RTH. You have some serious issues and the Fifteen Thousand Dollar award and the missing coma are the least of your problems. What language are you referring to when you say it is not professional? Do you mean the language that insists on randomly using uppercase letters and words because he feels others could not possibly get the meaning if he just wrote in a normal fashion or are you referring to the guy who happened to leave out a coma?

You are absolutely wrong when you say everyone is acting like a baby however, one of us is acting very childish and that would be you.

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By toolkit (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2011 at 07:15:29 in reply to Comment 63904

"I did not know there was a spell check on this site. How do I access it? Or do I need to write it in Word and then transfer it to RTH."

Most web browsers and email clients these days have a spell check option. When it is turned on spelling errors are highlighted as you type them. If your software does not support this maybe its time to consider Firefox

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2011 at 01:10:46 in reply to Comment 63906

Funny you should mention it I do run Firefox. The so called spell checker that underlines in a red wavy line on this site is a very American program so if you actually spell something correctly in our Canadian English like labour it wants you to change it to American English labor. There are numerous other words it also does not recognize so therefore I do not use it. I like and prefer the Canadian version. If you want to use the American version please go right ahead I will still understand but do not try to criticize me for staying with my Canadian version.

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By Hello (anonymous) | Posted May 23, 2011 at 09:54:51

Finally some common sense on Raise the Bullshit...well done mr. meister.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted May 23, 2011 at 13:30:59

There is a policy in place to cover councillors for these types of frivolous lawsuits and thats all this was despite what the judge ruled. Anyone who thinks that council is going to change that policy just to satisfy a few whiners in this city is delusional.

Councillors for the most part are just average people trying to do a thankless job. They are not in the position financially to defend themselves from all the potential lawsuits that could be filed against them by people trying to make a name for themselves or even trying to enrich themselves. They do not have the limited immunity that provincial and federal politicians have given themselves.

The city has the resources to defend these sorts of actions that individual councillors don't. I like to think of it as a deterrent against these types of nuisance lawsuits and thats all this was. We are going to get the odd person who will press forward without regard to costs but most are going to think twice before going up against the government, especially if their lawsuits are meritless. At the end of the day after paying his lawyer, this idiot who sued Whitehead is probably going to end up with nothing. All so he could get a judgement. If he had done nothing people wouldn't know who he is and he wouldn't have confirmed what Whitehead wrote.

Comment edited by bigguy1231 on 2011-05-23 13:33:57

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By Never Mind (anonymous) | Posted May 23, 2011 at 14:27:57

Never mind this small potatoes lawsuit thrown by a delusional flombourite who got a lucky, if deservied, judgement...at the other end of the spectrum is newby councillor johnson being sued for abuse of process; and if you know anything about this case, the bucks are quite substantial and "I'll never get rid of area rating" johnson who just passed on a 16% tax raise to her constituents, is quivering, I hear.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 23, 2011 at 15:41:48

comment from banned user deleted

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By Balance (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2011 at 00:15:06

Whitehead should pay all costs, he has been found guilty by a court of law. However he comes up with the money doesn't matter to me, he should pay. Similarly, Councillor Johnson in Binbrook should pay as well depending the outcome. These people are elected to represent their wards, that does not allow them to make thoughtless comments and pass motions. Time to act a little more professional as they are well paid for the little they do.

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By fairplay (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2011 at 16:23:08

terry... do the right thing,,, pay the 15 grand..

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