Below is a press release I wrote about a lawsuit that I was litigating until recently. I published it, and then unpublished it after the other side asked to engage in settlement talks. Now that we have reached a settlement, I have re-published it for the record. Full details of the settlement will be posted here on January 6th, 2014. The reason for the delay is that the defendants’ lawyers were afraid that their clients might be sued again by others due to the content of the settlement if it was released prior to the end of the two-year limitation of action period, which expires on January 3rd, 2014. In other words, no one else can sue them for these particular actions after January 3rd.
“There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the information by which to detect lies.”1 These are the words of Walter Lippmann, an American journalist who wrote extensively about the importance of truth for the public good. His words come to mind frequently during discussions about the political situation in Fredericton, because some of those in charge at Fredericton City Hall routinely lie to the public and get away with it. Some of those lies resulted in a lawsuit being filed against Mayor Brad Woodside, the City of Fredericton, and Murray Jamer on April 24, 2012. A 3-day trial has now been scheduled for December 3-5, 2013. The reasons for the lawsuit are laid out below.
Nearly two years ago, Mayor Brad Woodside accused members of the public of violating by-law provisions that don’t exist. The citizens in question had set up a sit-in protest in front of City Hall. In response, Woodside gave them a written notice which alleged that they were violating Section 5 of By-law T-4. Murray Jamer, the Director of Engineering and Public Works for the City of Fredericton, backed Woodside up by issuing a similar notice. The problem is that there is nothing in Section 5 that the protesters were violating, and Woodside and Jamer were well aware of this. Dr. Paul Groarke, who is a lawyer, professor of criminology, and former member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, explained the legal issues very cogently in an article for Canadian Lawyer Magazine and in his legal lecture notes.
Brad Woodside and Murray Jamer didn’t stop at lying to the public and issuing fraudulent documents. They used their fictional by-law provisions to justify the use of physical force to end the sit-in protest. They sent in Public Works employees with box cutters and a chainsaw, who literally knocked down and cut apart a tent with two people still inside it. Then they took everything that the protesters weren’t wearing, threw it into trucks, and hauled it away. A lot of that property was never returned. A reporter from CTV tried to film this as it was happening, but a police officer, under Woodside’s orders, threatened to arrest him if he tried to film from City Hall property. Later, a different police officer threatened to arrest the reporter when he tried to film from across the street on a public sidewalk. It was specifically members of the media who were targeted like this. The protesters, by contrast, were allowed on City Hall property even as the tent’s wooden structure was literally brought down on their heads. Mayor Woodside evidently thought that Freedom of the Press doesn’t apply when the press might record incidents that would embarrass him during election season.
These sorts of things are not supposed to happen in a democracy. The fact that they did happen gives rise to serious questions.
In what kind of city do we want to live? Do we want to live in a city where the mayor and senior public officials wield absolute power and can do whatever they want, whenever they want, to whomever they want? Or, do we want to live in a city where public officials tell the truth to the public, and which is based on tolerance, mutual respect, and the rule of law?
If we want the former kind of city, then what Mayor Brad Woodside and Murray Jamer did to political protesters in December 2011 and January 2012 was perfectly fine. In fact, if that’s really what we want, then we should laud Woodside and Jamer for reminding us that politicians and their lackeys are above the law. However, if we want the latter kind of city, then what they did is reprehensible, and they need to be held accountable for it.
That’s all well and good, but who is going to hold them accountable? Politicians and bureaucrats aren’t going to hold themselves accountable for their own corruption. Regular people need to step up to the plate and do something about it. And that’s what we, the Plaintiffs, are doing.
There are other issues that the public has a right to know about. For instance, Brad Woodside is taking tremendous liberties with taxpayer money in dealing with this lawsuit. He was originally represented by a City lawyer—who is paid to represent City officials—but he has now hired a second lawyer from a private law firm just for himself, while the City lawyer continues to represent the other two Defendants. Considering that this is a small claims suit with very little money at stake, it seems excessive for the Defendants to have two lawyers. The legal bills will probably cost more than damages arising from the lawsuit itself. Furthermore, Woodside makes it clear in his Dispute Note that he wants the City to pay for the costs of this lawsuit. We, the Plaintiffs, argue that Brad Woodside and Murray Jamer should have to pay the costs of the lawsuit themselves. Fredericton’s By-law A-3 indicates, in Section 3.04, that the City won’t pay the legal costs of officials who contribute to a claim “by reason of fraud of dishonesty,” which they most certainly did in this case.
There is also the issue of the trial date. Murray Jamer has said that he wants to delay the trial to a later date so that he can go on vacation during the time that the trial is set to take place. Given that the trial has already been delayed by 1.5 years, and that the Court of Queen’s Bench has scheduled three days of its valuable time to hear this matter, a vacation seems an absurd reason to delay it even longer. Justice is more important than Murray Jamer’s vacation plans.
The trial is fast approaching. It’s due time that our politicians and their lackeys were reminded that no one is above the law.
P.S. For those with an interest in this lawsuit, I highly recommend that you read this document for a more complete recounting of the issues. I would also encourage you to attend the trial, which is open to the public. It begins at 9:30 a.m. on December 3rd, 2013, at the Fredericton Justice Building at 427 Queen St.