The Union Bay Improvement District and Mary Reynolds have consented to an order dismissing the district’s claim about alleged defamatory material that appeared on her blog dubbed All Things Union Bay.
The UBID has agreed to pay her $15,000.
Reynolds’ lawyer Jason Gratl said it is difficult to determine the exact amount of legal costs incurred thus far.
“My client estimates, on the basis of public documents, that the cost of litigation borne to date by UBID ratepayers is approximately $130,000,” Gratl said. “Ms. Reynolds is prepared to allow the remaining plaintiffs to drop the suit, without making any payment to her, provided the remaining plaintiffs reimburse UBID ratepayers for the costs incurred to date for this lawsuit…They can either repay their neighbours or spend more money and energies pursuing Ms. Reynolds.”
The eight plaintiffs named in the lawsuit plan to proceed “until it’s done,” said UBID trustee Alan de Jersey, who was replaced as board chair by Carol Molstad in early-May.
Molstad is a member of Taxpayers for Accountable Governance (TAG), as are fellow trustees Cleve Goldswain, Bruce Livesey and Anne Alcock.
The civil action against Reynolds stems from what the plaintiffs consider personal and malicious attacks through alleged defamatory material has appeared in the Cumberlander publication and on public signage.
“Basically all that’s happened is her four (TAG) friends on the board have withdrawn the UBID portion of the case and decided to pay her off,” said de Jersey, a retired police officer. “She’s the one being sued. She’s defamed people. As far as I’m concerned, she should be responsible for paying the money back.
“You don’t talk about an administrator being so overweight that her thighs chafe together as being freedom of speech, or saying that I’m so stupid I could never investigate a crime. That’s not free speech, it’s slander. If she commented on a decision that I made in a board meeting, then that’s free speech.”
Besides de Jersey, the plaintiffs include former trustees Dave Godfrey, Denis Royer, James Smith, Debora McMahon and David McDowell, administrator Brenda Fisher and part-time staffer Gloria Royer.
The plaintiffs, de Jersey noted, voluntarily put themselves into positions on the board to serve the community — not to be attacked and defamed — which is why they proceeded with legal action.
He said Reynolds is continuing to defame on a new blog on the Cumberlander website, even though she had signed a consent order to remove the blog.
“All she had to do was abide to the consent order, and it would have cost UBID $10,000 to end this thing,” de Jersey said. “She’s the one to blame for it, and not just her but the group that supports her.
“The whole thing is disgusting,” he added. “I don’t see anybody in Union Bay will ever be interested in running for a trustee position.”
While further legal action will be out of pocket from this point on, de Jersey said the UBID is still responsible for legal costs because the plaintiffs were indemnified as trustees. Had the plaintiffs won the case, the UBID would have had a chance to recover some of the legal costs, he added.
Gratl said Reynolds is “prepared to litigate if the plaintiffs are not prepared to settle.
“We can expect that a great deal more energy will be expended on this lawsuit.”
Reynolds said Gratl, like John Dixon, is a “true believer in freedom of speech and democracy.
“Shining examples of the legal profession,” she said. “I’m extremely grateful to John Dixon, who brought the ‘Dixon versus City of Powell River’ to the Supreme Court, successfully defending our Charter Rights.”
She was referring to the former B.C. Civil Liberties Association secretary who sought a Supreme Court declaration that municipalities had no authority to sue or threaten to sue for defamation. Powell River had sued three people after the province had passed Community Charter legislation.
de Jersey said he and the other plaintiffs sought advice from lawyers from the same firm that represented the City of Powell River. These lawyers indicated they had the right to sue Reynolds.
“Our lawyer certainly wouldn’t have gone ahead if they didn’t feel the UBID board had the same right,” he said. “It’s all smoke-blowing.”