Whitehead Loses Defamation Suit, City To Foot Bill

By Adrian Duyzer
Published May 17, 2011

City Councillor Terry Whitehead has lost a $15,000 defamation suit that was filed against him by Free Flamborough chairman Roman Sarachman, The Spectator has reported, in a judgment handed down yesterday.

Justice James Turnbull ruled that Whitehead libelled Free Flamborough chairman Roman Sarachman when the councillor called Sarachman a "destructive, mean-spirited, irrational liar that does not deserve the time of day" in a May 2008 email copied to council.

"It is not in the best interests of the city that councillors address taxpayers in such derogatory and unfair terms," Turnbull wrote in a judgment handed down Monday morning. "It is incomprehensible that an email with such comments fell within the scope of his duties as a city councillor."

Whitehead sent the email to the mayor and city councillors as a debate raged in Flamborough over whether revenue from the Flamboro Downs racetrack should be retained by Flamborough or distributed throughout the entire city. At a meeting on May 7, 2008 that was attended by more than 1,000 residents, Whitehead says he was criticized, threatened, and spat on. During his trial, he testified that he viewed Sarachman as the "the head of the snake" who inflamed anger among Flamborough residents.

Whitehead's costs will be covered by the City, The Spec reports:

City solicitor Peter Barkwell says Whitehead's costs are being covered because his case comes within the terms of the city's indemnification bylaw. That means the city's legal department and insurers feel Whitehead was acting within the scope of his duties as a councillor and acting in good faith when he sent the email.

But in his judgment, Turnbull says Whitehead's words did not meet either of those criteria.

"The defendant testified that he sent the impugned email message in good faith and in honest belief in the truth of its contents, with a view to the best interests of the city, and within the scope of his duties as a city councillor," Turnbull's judgment reads. "I absolutely reject that evidence as it relates to the defamatory words."

Council ultimately voted to distribute revenue from Flamboro Downs across the city, with Flamborough receiving the lion's share: about half of the $1.5 million in annual revenues.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By Ancopa (registered) | Posted May 17, 2011 at 09:45:29

So he defames a taxpayer, the taxpayer sues, and then the taxpayers pay the damages?

This is outrageous.

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By To Be Fair (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2011 at 10:31:47

The separatist from Flamborough wanted $700,000 and has to settle for $15,000. I heard his pitiful, "I feel badly for the taxpayers of Hamilton" baloney on TV last night. Well, if he feels so badly, why doesn't he just return the money now that he has the Councillor's pound of flesh....make that ounce of flesh.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted May 17, 2011 at 16:43:32 in reply to Comment 63606

So he would receive no compensation for being defamed? That doesn't seem right.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2011 at 15:53:42 in reply to Comment 63606

Great point, To Be Fair. I agree completely.

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By Quimby (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2011 at 10:58:20

That's why they call it a system!

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted May 17, 2011 at 12:14:16

"Head of the snake"? What does he think this is, a 1980s Chuck Norris flick?

Newsflash Mr Whitehead, you're a government official speaking on behalf of a range of very unpopular policies. People aren't unhappy because some nasty troublemaker has been whipping up a frenzy. They have a grievance with government policy, and feel they're being ignored.

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By JT (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2011 at 12:56:55

Let Whitehead pay his own defamation lawsuit. He is the one who lost the suit .... let him pay. Now he wants his friends to have a benefit dinner to help out. What nerve this guy has. Only in Hamilton would we allow this.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted May 17, 2011 at 16:16:53

Councilor Brenda Johnson is also the subject of a lawsuit. Might end up costing taxpayers even more...

But hey, we re-elected them last November. Democracy's great for giving people the governors they deserve...

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted May 17, 2011 at 16:52:49 in reply to Comment 63621

Thanks for beating me to the punch Borrelli...

Seriously, what's the big deal here? This is nothing compared to other frivolous lawsuits involving the city of Hamilton. Just look here and there.

Gowlings probably gets fifteen grand every day from the taxpayer's pocket but we'll never know because they've hidden the docket. And then there's poor Brenda Johnson who's now under attack from a sore mega-corporation. When does IT end? Where's the justification?

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-05-17 16:53:43

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted May 18, 2011 at 09:06:25

In case anyone is curious about the personalities in play here toward the end of the suit, here are some clips from the Feb 24, 2011 GIC Meeting.

Lambasting area rating, Roman Sarachman quotes “Go Down Moses”, an analogy that seems a little backwards in the context of the nascent Arab Spring and the perpetual West Bank occupation.

“The only thing I can say folks is if you do put area rating in, you will surely let my people go. And not only Flamborough, but Ancaster, Glanbrook will not tolerate that. I’ll tell you right now."

And am I hearing this right? Sarachman is a homebuilder?

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By realfreeenterpriser (registered) | Posted May 20, 2011 at 12:45:10

Apparently, Whitehead has agreed to cover the tab himself by paying $14,901.00 plus a hairpiece.

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By emotion (anonymous) | Posted May 20, 2011 at 16:03:49

I do not get those people out in Flamborough, who like to blame the city of hamilton for amalgamation, when it was the harris regime who imposed it on the people.

Still those folks out in the rural area like Flamborough still vote conservative, why? It boggles the mind.

Mr Whiteheasd was wrong becuase he should not of responded to the email, in the frame of mind he was in, emotion ruled not logic.

The guy out in flamborough is another issue, but it seems emotion rules him as well, two hot heads, it costs us?

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By realfreeenterpriser (registered) | Posted May 21, 2011 at 22:11:19

"I do not get those people out in Flamborough, who like to blame the city of hamilton for amalgamation, when it was the harris regime who imposed it on the people."

Yes, it WAS the Harris Government who forced amalgamation but it was the City of Hamilton Councillors, led by the, now convicted, consumate blowhard, Terry Whitehead, who took the Flamboro Downs slot money to subsidize the non-Flamborough taxpayers in the new City. Like it or not, Flamborough Council, knowing the old City of Hamilton's financial state, mindful of the Harris Government's intention to download its bills to municipal taxpayers and anticipating the possibility of amalgamation, was smart enough to negotiate an agreement with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission that specifically states that slot revenue shall enure to the benefit of "the community represented by the municipality". To repeat, not the municipality but, rather, the community represented by the municipality. That municipality was Flamborough and, therefore, that community, by definition, couldn't include anyone living beyond the geographic confines of the Town of Flamborough. Amalgamation didn't change the beneficiaries of that agreement. You can check it out.

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By Ward Cleaver (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2011 at 21:00:26

$15,000 award plus another $28,000+ in legal fees? Shame this case didn't get settled before the election. The goldfish will have long since forgotten by 2014.

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