Here’s the latest one from this fall: Phyllis Morris, when she was mayor of Aurora, Ontario and running for re-election, got the town council to agree to foot the legal bills for going after the Aurora Citizen blog and anonymous critics voicing their opinions on the site. With taxpayers paying, Morris then sued a bunch of people, including people behind the blog, anonymous defendants, and WordPress.
After the town had incurred $43,000 in legal fees, the council voted (just before Christmas) to cut off funding.
Why the change of heart? Well, apparently people in the town started to squawk. (Which is why politicians like to keep these legal campaigns secret when then can. E.g., Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel.) In other words, politicians like to avoid criticism. If silencing critics with lawsuits doesn’t work, then governing in accordance with the will of the electorate is the plan B.
My favorite bit is Councillor John Gallo, who was quoted in the YorkRegion as saying, “we never agreed to sue any private residents; that was never on the table when I agreed to the motion.”
The September 14, 2010 resolution directed the town solicitor to hire outside counsel and “take any and all actions to bring resolution to this matter[.]”
If Gallo didn’t think that would include a lawsuit, then he’s a real noodlehead.
By the way, Gallo was the lone vote on the council for continuing to use town money to fund the legal war against the blog. He didn’t think it would be right to change things now. Well, clearly, he’s a man of integrity.
- Sean Pearce in the YorkRegion (newspaper site): Aurora votes tonight on blog lawsuit
- Sean Pearce in the YorkRegion (newspaper site): Aurora stops support of ex-mayor’s lawsuit, town has been billed $43,000 in legal costs
- Aurora Citizen blog: Council Ends Support of Morris Lawsuit « Aurora Citizen