Scott sues two over ‘defamation’

In a bizarre twist to an already unusual situation, two Guelph-Eramosa councillors say they will vacate their seats at the end of this term, and a third is no longer talking to the media.
Councillors Reta Moyer and Roger Knapp, who are being sued by fellow councillor John Scott for $800,000 for defama­tion of character, told the Ad­vertiser they are fed up and will not seek re-election in two years.
“I’m not going to work with people like this any longer than I have to,” Moyer said on Mon­day.
“No, I wouldn’t run again,” Knapp added on Tuesday. “There’s no need to.”
And Scott said on Monday night he was so upset with a Feb. 8 Guelph Mercury article about his lawsuit he no longer is talking to any members of the print media.
The Advertiser had known for some time about Scott’s law­suit, but on at least one occasion Scott refused to talk about it. Why he chose to speak to the Mercury is unclear, although he did say on Monday night that doing that was “a mistake.”
All parties confirmed they have been advised by legal council not to speak to the reporters.
The lawsuit – which Moyer confirmed includes $400,000 in general damages, $200,000 for punitive damages, and $200,000 for aggravating cir­cums­tances – stems from a council meeting last March.
Scott was eventually charg­ed with assault after Moyer told police that his actions during that meeting were threatening and intimidating. The case went to court Nov. 6, where Moyer told Justice Norman Douglas a discussion about a previous meeting held outside the township got heated.
Scott shoved his chair into a wall,  towered over her, shook his fists within inches of her face, and inadvertently spit at her as he was yelling during a “blind rage,” Moyer said in court.
But Douglas, citing testi­mony from clerk Janice Shep­pard and deputy-clerk Meag­han Reid, as well as conflicting testimony from  Knapp and Moyer, dismissed the case,  saying it should never have come to court.
After that, Scott filed the suit against Moyer and Knapp, although Moyer says the pair received a notice of intent “well before the case against Scott going to trial.”
Knapp had little comment about the defamation lawsuit, but he did offer a prediction.
“I feel confident [Scott’s] not going to win,” Knapp said. “I know that.”
Moyer did talk more to the Advertiser, and ironically, like Scott, she was also upset with the Feb. 8 Mercury article about the six-figure lawsuit. She said the article made it seem she initiated a move to use township insurance help cov­er her defence, thus costing taxpayers money.
“I have already put out sev­eral thousands of dollars to my own lawyer,” she said. She explained she has been inform­ed through her own lawyer that the township’s insurance policy will cover everything except punitive damages.
But if anyone’s to blame for that, she said it is Scott, be­cause he knew filing the law­suit could result in township money being used in the de­fence. “He knowingly pro­ceeded with a charge that goes against the township,” she said. “It’s a disturbing thing that a councillor will initiate litiga­tion under the umbrella of the municipality.”
Moyer said she can forgive Scott for the March 19 incident, but not for the lawsuit.
Mayor Chris White said blam­ing Scott for the defa­ma­tion lawsuit makes little sense.
“[Scott] did not instigate this thing,” White said, adding Scott is just defending himself. “This whole thing stems from the original allegation [of as­sault].”
Moyer said she would like to move forward with issues of council, but it is hard when coun­cillors are more commit­ted to “humiliating one an­other” than they are to working together. She noted that meet­ings are going ahead as plan­ned, but the stress level is high in the council chambers.
“I have never seen such a dysfunctional group of people with so much animosity,” she said.
Moyer said she will not seek re-election in two years. In fact, she explained she has considered quitting this term a few times, and hinted on Monday night that may still be a possibility.
Knapp, on the other hand, said he was “disillusioned” about what exactly councillors can do and he will not run again because of that. He added he is disappointed with the lack of respect shown to Moyer during the alleged altercation with Scott.
White said he has no real com­ment about Knapp and Moyer not  seeking re-election.
“That decision is up to each individual when the time com­es,” White said.
As for moving forward, White said council is “working fine,” as proven by the recent passing of the 2008 budget by a unanimous vote.
“Day to day, it’s not an issue,” White said of the lawsuit and past altercations between fellow councillors. “There is no impediment to council moving forward.”