Summary judgment sought in Boardwalk libel case

Former Ward 32 candidate Bruce Baker is seeking to have the libel suit by Boardwalk Pub owner George Foulidis against him dropped.

In a late-April interview, Baker said he believed his case is heading to court on May 25, where he will be seeking summary judgment to have the case dismissed.

His view of the lawsuit remains unchanged from the outset in 2010. Baker said he still believes Foulidis was acting out of self-interest to stop public debate on the issue during the 2010 municipal election.

“It was frivolous, it was politically motivated, and it was basically a SLAPP,” he said, referring to the legal term of strategic litigation against public participation.

Foulidis originally sued Baker for $100,000, alleging he made false and defamatory claims in a May 2010 letter distributed to city hall and media about Foulidis’s expansion plans for the Boardwalk Pub.

He also claimed Baker damaged his reputation as a businessman by stating in the letter that Foulidis influenced staff and councillors at city hall in exchange for favours from the city. In the letter, Baker also requested police conduct an investigation into the process by which Foulidis was able to renew his lease to operate the pub and concession stands in the eastern Beaches.

In the statement of claim, Foulidis contended that as a result of the letter’s distribution, he had received threatening and harassing calls, as well as confrontations from residents of the Beach. He also claimed it negatively affected business relationships with municipal and provincial officials.

Baker has always maintained Foulidis should never have been in receipt of the letter because it was a confidential city document. He also says Foulidis has not been truthful about how city staff handled Foulidis’s unsolicited proposal, which resulted in his company, Tuggs Inc., receiving a 20-year deal to sell food and beverages exclusively in Ashbridges Bay Park and Woodbine Beach.

“George Foulidis says that everything was open and transparent. And it’s in a staff report from August 2006 that he himself requested that it be held confidential,” Baker said. “He wanted to meet with the economic development and parks committee back then in September [2006], basically in camera.”

Foulidis was unavailable for comment by deadline. However, after an October 2010 interview with the Town Crier, Foulidis said in a followup email he did request the matter be dealt with in a confidential manner but the city declined.

“The matter was not treated as confidential and was in fact debated and considered and voted in public,” he wrote in the Oct. 14 message. “From that point forward, there was nothing secret about our proposal.”

He continued, “Further, since the matter was made public, in theory, nothing prevented anyone for that matter to make their own proposal,” referring to the potential for others to make competitive bids to lease the space in the Eastern Beaches. “But how many business people would consider to invest a few million dollars in a seasonal business and deal with the city?”

Though Baker says there never was a public committee meeting until April 2010, he says his issue is not how Foulidis conducted business — it’s how the city did.

“[City staff] never went back to council until May 2010 to seek council approval to vary their decision in 2007,” he said. “So what they did after July [2007], they just ignored city council’s decision…. That’s what this is all about.”