Ford fights back to allegations of libel

The Beaches pub owner says the mayor damaged his reputation

Two months after Boardwalk Pub owner George Foulidis hit him with a $6-million libel lawsuit, Toronto’s new mayor, Rob Ford is fighting back.

On Dec. 6, Ford’s lawyers at Gardiner Roberts LLP submitted a statement of defence against allegations of libel dating back to Ford’s election campaign.

Back in October, George Foulidis, owner of Tuggs Inc., which operates the pub, slapped Ford with lawsuit alleging the then-mayoral candidate hurt his reputation when he made comments of corruption regarding Foulidis’ controversial sole-source contract with the city during the municipal election campaign.

In particular, the lawsuit refers to a radio appearance in which Ford was asked whether “someone is getting money under the table” in reference to an in-camera council session that resulted in the approval of the lease. Ford replied, “I truly believe they are (getting money under the table), and that’s my personal opinion.”

Ford’s statement of defence claims Foulidis was deliberately trying to interfere with Ford’s mayoral run when he launched the lawsuit, and that Foulidis was attempting to silence debate about his company’s 20-year, exclusive rights deal on the Eastern beaches.

“Rob (Ford) pleads that this action … is a SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) lawsuit that has been brought merely for the purposes of stifling public debate on a public issue, restricting freedom of speech and the free exchange of opinions,” it reads.

This comes in contrast of Foulidis’ claims that Ford was using the 20-year lease as an election issue, and thus harming him in the process.

Reached by phone Dec. 9, Foulidis said since the case is still waiting for its time in court, he didn’t want to discuss the specifics of the lawsuit.

“We did our best to get a defence (statement) and it’s come,” he said. “I just discussed it briefly with my lawyer, so I’m going to meet with him to review it.”

Spokespeople for Ford could not be reached for comment.

Foulidis filed a similar lawsuit in September against former Ward 32 council candidate Bruce Baker, who is also fighting back. Ford has hired the same law firm as Baker to handle his case.

For his part, Baker contends any corruption was strictly between city staff and city council in how they handled the Tuggs deal, and that Foulidis played no part.

Outside of the courtroom, talk of the contract lease between the city and Tuggs won’t be stifled anytime soon, Baker said.

“I am pushing ahead, I’m trying to get this back before council, to ask for a full inquiry,” Baker said. “It’s far from over. I’ve never used the word ‘corrupt,’ but it is one of the most corrupt deals I’ve ever seen in my life.”

About this article:

By: Shawn Star
Posted: Dec 15 2010 1:15 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto