by Edith Cody-Rice
Mississippi Mills Mayor Shaun McLaughlin and Councillor John Edwards have taken the extraordinary step of suing Carleton Place resident Steve Maynard for defamation of character based on his social media posts which contain biting criticisms of both men.
Mississippi Mills Council has been a target of the wrath of Mr. Maynard for a number of months, commencing with his objection to the proposed sale of land in a local park named after Mr. Maynard’s father, admired teacher Don Maynard.
Council proposed to sell for development a portion of the park identified by a consultant as unused, to generate funds to redevelop Gemmill Park in Almonte. Don Maynard Park has its fans, however, and over the last months, acrimonious public meetings about the park have culminated in the council involving the Ontario Provincial Police at council meetings.
In an interview with the Millstone, Councillor Edwards stated that as a public official, he recognizes he must accept a level of public criticism, but that the allegations of Mr. Maynard on his blog cross a line. As content on the internet remains for long periods of time and is publicly available, he is concerned that Mr. Maynard’s attacks will affect his professional life beyond his responsibilities as Councillor.
In their statement of claim, Mayor McLaughlin and Councillor Edwards state that Mr. Maynard’s comments are thoroughly untrue and have impacted goodwill and reputation for the Mayor and the Councillor in the town community. They claim to have been severely injured in their credit, character and reputation as reputable and trustworthy elected officials, have been brought into public scandal, odium and contempt, and have suffered damages in their profession, trade and business.
Before commencing the action, the pair sent a letter to Mr. Maynard through their lawyer outlining the comments complained of on Mr. Maynard’s Facebook page and demanding that the posts be removed.
When Mr.Maynard refused to delete them, the men commenced a formal action. They now claim $150,000 as general and special damages for libel, $50,000.00 as aggravated damages,$50,000 as punitive damages and an interim interlocutory and permanent injunction requiring the immediate removal and/or deletion of the offending posts including all comments posted by any third parties to the Posts, and preventing the Mr. Maynard from publishing any further defamatory material regarding the Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Edward.
Read the statement of claim here: Statement of Claim – Defamation McLaughlin and Edward v. Maynard.
Mayor Shaun McLaughlin issued the following statement to the Millstone
Politicians should expect criticism of their decisions and their actions. That is part of the democratic process, which I support. In our social media age, submitting to personal attacks is now also part of the job description. What we do not have to endure passively is attacks on our integrity and accusations of criminal behaviour. We all have a life after politics and sullied reputations may hinder us professionally later.”
For his part, Mr. Maynard, in an Ottawa Citizen article on the dispute, called the lawsuit “laughable” stating that everything he said is either truth or commentary from council meetings or minutes.
He has issued a statement of defence in the libel action and a counterclaim against Mayor McLaughlin and Councillor Edwards. He defends his posts as true, made in good faith and without malice and made on a matter of public interest. In his counterclaim, he accuses Mayor McLaughlin of defaming him in statements published on his Shaun Your Mayor Facebook group and website, portions of which were reproduced in the Millstone, and states the posts are calculated to cause serious harm to Mr. Maynard’s reputation.
Mr. Maynard states that he received anonymous emails containing horrendous references to him and his late father and threats of violence and physical harm the very day the Mayor’s comments were posted. Mr. Maynard is asking $200,000 in general damages for libel. $200,000 for the intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional suffering, $200,000 in general damages for harassment and abuse of power, $400,000 in punitive and/or exemplary and/or aggravated damages and costs.
Read the statement of defence and counterclaim here: Defence and Counter Claim to McLaughlin, Edwards defamation action.
None of the allegations on either side have been tested or proven in court.