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Friday, April 27, 2012

Senior City Staff Battered At Defamation Trial

The lawyer for former Common Councillor John Ferguson is accusing senior city staff of having a secret agenda and of stifling discussion of the pension plan's rising deficit.

Rod Gillis was making his closing argument to the jury at Ferguson's trial for defamation and was scathing in his criticism of then City Manager Terry Totten, City Solicitor John Nugent, then Deputy City Manager Pat Woods and former City Finance Commissioner Andrew Beckett, all of whom served on the Pension Board.

Gillis accuses the Pension Board of launching the lawsuit to silence questions and told the court it's wrong to interfere in the democratic process, if not unsavoury.

He maintains senior city staff members on the pension board in 2003 knew benefits would have to be reduced but didn't want to get flak from the civic unions and points out they, themselves, were in line for city pensions each worth over a million dollars.

Gillis telling the jury senior city staff, who served on the Pension Board, are guilty of inaction because they knew in 2003 pension benefits would have to be reduced and had specific solutions in 2005 which were not presented to Common Council.

He argues Ferguson, as a member of Council, had a duty to pursue the matter and the Pension Board will have to prove malice but no evidence of that was ever presented at trial.

Gillis claims none of Ferguson's criticisms was directed at the Pension Board and none was defamatory because he was acting in good faith whereas senior city staff were trying to stifle discussion.