By Doug Draper
Posted March 28th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – Ed Smith – a Niagara, Ontario community activist who faces a defamation suit from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and its former CAO Carmen D’Angelo in the wake of questions and concerns he raised about their management practices – has fired back with a lawsuit of his own.
According to documents obtained by Niagara At Large and filed on behalf of Smith, a 54-year-old retired Canadian Armed Forces officer, in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Welland, Smith is suing the NPCA, as a body, and its former board of directors chair Bruce Timms, a St. Catharines regional councillor and one of 10 municipal politicians in Niagara sitting on the board, for a total of $60,000.
The penalty being sought by Smith’s lawyers include $50,000 from both the NPCA and Timms for alleged “defamation and/or malicious falsehoods,” and $10,000 for alleged “aggravated and/or punitive damages” – all focusing on what was headlined: “A Special statement from NPCA Chair Bruce Timms,” which was posted on the NPCA’s website this past January and published as a paid ad in a weekly newspaper, Niagara This Week, circulated to homes and businesses throughout the Niagara region.
Niagara At Large obtained the court documents outlining Smith’s lawsuit against the parties late last Friday, March 24th, and made calls that late Friday to both the NPCA and Timms, seeking comment.
No comment was obtained at that time, but Timms responded on the weekend to a voice message left for him and left a voice message of his own for this reporter, who was away when he called. Niagara At Large made further calls this past Monday, March 27th to Timms and to the NPCA’s current chair, Sandy Annunziata, leaving voice messages as to the reason for our call, but neither party has responded to those contacts to date.
Both Timms and Annunziata have since made statements to other media that they are not commenting on Smith’s lawsuit at this time. Smith is also refraining from making a comment, saying only that the court documents “speak for themselves.”
In the “Special Statement” from then NPCA chair Timms that is the focus of Smith’s suit, the statement does not refer to Smith by name, but as a “member of the public” who made “false and defamatory statement in (an) unsigned document he circulated.”
“The document is unsigned,” Timms’ “special statement” and a modified version of it that appeared in media ads continued, “because the author knows that it contains falsehoods and fabricated documents.”
The document in question was entitled a “Call for Accountability” report and contains a long list of questions and concerns Smith and a growing number of questions and concerns others across Niagara have been raising over the past year about NPCA’s hiring practices, awarding of contracts to other parties and other matters involving the expenditure of money it receives from municipal taxpayers and other sources.
The court documents filed by Smith’s lawyers charge that “the Special Statement and the Modified Statement were made by the Defendants maliciously and, among other reasons, made in retaliation for Mr. Smith’s willingness to speak publicly in favour of bringing accountability and scrutiny to the NPCA.”
“The Defendants published the Special Statement and the Modified Statement knowing that they contained false statements or with reckless disregard to their truth or falsity. …. Due to the publication of the statements complained of, Mr. Smith’s reputation and goodwill has been injured and he has been brought into scandal, ridicule, hatred and contempt in the eyes of the readers of the Special Statement,” the court documents supporting Smith’s lawsuit charge, adding that “the Defendants acted in a high-handed, arrogant, deceitful, vindictive and malicious manner in publishing the statements complained of giving rise to an award of aggravated and punitive damages.”
Niagara At Large will be posting more on this and related matters in the days and weeks ahead.
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