City of Quesnel Threatens Sentinel Publisher with Defamation Suit

City of Quesnel Threatens Sentinel Publisher with Defamation Suit

[Editor's Note: On June 9th, 2011 in response to comments made in the Quesnel Cariboo Observer concerning the actions of City of Quesnel finance chair Coun. Sushil Thapar I sent a letter to the Observer which was later published in the newspaper on June 21, 2011 under the heading, "Tough questions need to be asked."

On June 23, 2011 the Observer published a response to my letter from Mayor Mary Sjostrom wherein she denied comments that I had made concerning the hiring of City Manager John Stecyk. That same day I received an email from the City of Quesnel's law firm in Vancouver, Murdy & McAllister, which contained a pdf letter that stated I had made "defamatory" statements concerning Steyck and that I was requested to "forthwith retract your defamatory comments and issue an apology for same, failing which legal action against you may be pursued." A cc copy of this letter was also sent to Autumn Macdonald, Editor of the Quesnel Cariboo Observer.

Murdy's letter is posted directly below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Murdy of Murdy & McAllister

Noting some errors in Christoper Murdy's letter and also not wishing to delay replying to it I sent Mr. Murdy the following letter via email on June 27, 2011:

Cottonwood, B.C.
June 27, 2011

Chris Murdy
Vancouver, B.C.

Dear Chris,

Re: Your pdf of June 23, 2011

Further to my letter of June 24, 2011 in response to yours, I'd like to add some additional commentary.

Granted you are a paid functionary for municipal governments here in B.C. Along with that though you also have a duty to offer sensible advise to your clients when they are obviously operating under false assumptions as is the case with the City of Quesnel.

You've been informed by the City of Quesnel administration that Mr. Stecyk "fully disclosed" the fact that he had been terminated "without cause" from his previous position in the Yukon yet you also are faced with the reality that at least two city council members (to date) are willing to swear to the fact that they were not informed of this situation prior to, during or after the interview process took place.

As well, the suggestion that Mr. Stecyk did not show up to the public accounts committee is clearly stated in the article in the online edition of the Yukon News. That was not an assumption on my part, merely an extrapolation from the article in question.

The "innuendo" that you suggest was created by the statement in my letter should read "alleged malfeasance." I'm sure you understand the definition of "alleged" and who was alleging it.

If, as this drama unfolds, it is clearly proven that Mr. Stecyk did in fact disclose this information to all the city council then obviously those comments made by myself would constitute defamation and I would be most pleased to issue an apology and a retraction.

Then again, if wishes were horses beggars would surely ride.

Time will reveal the truth of what was published in my letter. In the interim period though one would hope that you would ascertain all the facts surrounding this issue before making threats toward my person and my reputation.

The City of Quesnel is already going through enough pubic relations problems necessitated by negligence on the part of some of its council members and to incur further ignominy by initiating a court case against myself is only going to exacerbate the already fragile credibility of the city. One would think therefore that common sense on your part might lessen this unnecessary situation.

Sincerely,

Arthur Topham
Cottonwood, B.C.
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Of course I never received a reply to my letter. Nonetheless on July 3, 2011 I sent another letter to the Observer which, to date, has not been published. It should/would have informed Quesnel residents of the fact that the City of Quesnel was threatening me with a defamation suit as a result of my June 21 letter. I am now publishing the letter here for the benefit of Quesnel residents.

July 2, 2011

Editor
Quesnel Cariboo Observer
newsroom@quesnelobserver.com

Editor,

Re: Quesnel mayor says comments are inaccurate and unfair, Observer, June 23,2011

I thought it rather indicative of the present political turmoil in Quesnel that Mayor Mary Sjostrom's  June 23 letter should have been published on the very same day that I received an email from the city of Quesnel's Vancouver law firm of Murdy & McAllister threatening me with legal action for supposedly defaming Mr. John Steyck, Quesnel City Manager.

As attorney Chris Murdy put it in his letter, "You are hereby requested to forthwith retract your defamatory comments and issue an apology for same, failing which legal action against you may be pursued."

In my response to Mr. Murdy I wrote in part, "You've been informed by the City of Quesnel administration that Mr. Stecyk "fully disclosed" the fact that he had been terminated "without cause" from his previous position in the Yukon yet you also are faced with the reality that at least two city council members (to date) are willing to swear to the fact that they were not informed of this situation prior to, during or after the interview process took place.

Time will reveal the truth of what was published in my letter. In the interim period though one would hope that you would ascertain all the facts surrounding this issue before making threats toward my person and my reputation.

The City of Quesnel is already going through enough pubic relations problems necessitated by negligence on the part of some of its council members and to incur further ignominy by initiating a court case against myself is only going to exacerbate the already fragile credibility of the city. One would think therefore that common sense on your part might lessen this unnecessary situation."

What is plainly evident from all of this is that some council members, including Mayor Sjostrom, are intent on defending their entrenched position regardless of the facts and would rather silence one of the messengers highlighting the problem with legal threats than admit to any fault on their part.

Sincerely,

Arthur Topham
Cottonwood, B.C.

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Contained in the hard copy edition of June 21, 2011 were the two urls to the Yukon News which don't appear in the online edition of the Observer. I am therefore posting them here for the benefit of readers who may wish to see where the information on City Manager John Stecyk originated from.

http://yukon-news.com/news/6356/
Fraser’s looming report raises questions about Stecyk’s dismissal

Monday January 15, 2007

http://www.yukon-news.com/sports/6465/
Fraser audit slams Highways and Public Works

It is these types of actions by Black Press that have called into question the need for more news outlets in the Cariboo to serve the general public and offer readers "the rest of story" as the old saying goes.

There is more to this issue than is currently meeting the eyes of Cariboo residents. As Editor and Publisher of this new online site I will be doing my best to see that the whole story is brought to light and that justice is served in the end.]