Thursday, April 26, 2007

Haldimand: You Asked Why did I Sue?

I have had several people ask me what comments I sued the Regional News for. So here it goes for those that are interested. This was a comment by Bill Jackson of the Regional News, June 8, 2005.

Comment by Bill Jackson

It seems the infamous Donna Pitcher takes a lot of time and effort to write to local community newspapers and complain about editorial content in the Regional News. In case you don't remember, Pitcher ran for the ward two seat in the last municipal election and lost to Buck Sloat. She garnered a hefty 125 votes and was the loud mouth of the proposed hydro sale revolt last year.

At that time I did a number of stories bringing to life her whining about the hydro divestiture process and how she thought too many discussions were going on behind closed doors.

Councillors later decided to retain the company, yet Pitcher continued to complain about information that wasn't being released and ambushed Mayor Marie Trainer at a council meeting recently with a series of requests, asking her to put the accountability back at the table.

Soon thereafter councillors were accused of cornering a hospital administrative assistant and the mayor on two respective occasions regarding personal and municipal business. Pitcher supported these claims, both of which happened to involve Sloat. She questioned the accuracy of our news reporting and reamed The Regional News for opinion editorials backing the councillors.

In a most recent display of hastiness, Pitcher lashed out at what she calls a municipal informant who is leaking confidential information to our paper. She believes once the informant comes out we can all deal with the real problem-the informant.

Here she misses the point again, only this time she takes a round about turn and shoots the messenger not acknowledging that the Mayor could be hit with a harassment case. She fails to address the fact that the Mayor could be guilty of breaching ethics in the same manner as Trainer accused the two male councillors of confronting her just a few weeks ago. As stated in our article, her worship reportedly made her secretary cry.

And it wasn't a municipal official who told me about the issue. I never said it was. Plus, Pitcher wanted in-camera information to come out. I guess her definition of logical is a bit different than mine. But I'd like to hear her justification for her reasoning. Her name might be Pitcher but her logic is all about offence off the base path. How about some defence in the form of sound reasoning?

I'm pleased though that opinions on our news makes their way into papers across the county. We get read. In the newspaper business objectivity rules the roost. You can choose to read regurgitated public reports on hydro revenues that are cancelled out by income tax increases and discussed thoroughly at council, or read about how the mayor might be in deep.

If you believe in objectivity, you don't believe that the mayor was still visibly shaken at a council meeting five days after someone yelled at her. She's a political veteran.

Pitcher provides information in her letter this week that I was not even at the council meeting and previously chastised me for inaccurate council reports.

I won't even dignify that with an explanation except to say quite frankly, for every one of Pitcher's letters we receive at least 10 other opinions backing us. And that feels good.

You see, I would never recommend Pitcher to anyone standing near a ballot box. Nor would most people. She just doesn't make sense. As some of Haldimand's "elected officials" told her at a public hydro meeting last year, she quite simply didn't have the facts straight.

Sometimes opposite opinion is completely grounded and poses a balanced argument. Except for the fact that you must retain two things if you want to be a good reporter or for that matter a good politician: objectivity and some degree of consistency. You also have to be able to defend your opinions and convince or make others agree that your opinions are justified.

In my opinion, Pitcher does none of this and gets my vote for this week's lunch bag letdown.

Well that certainly brought back fond memories for me. The fact is that I obviously upset a few individuals, and they felt the need to make me go away.

At the time this comment was written, I had a very strong feeling that there were a few individuals that were involved in the writing of this comment, but I knew that I would never be able to prove it. Well I was wrong! In court under Oath, Mr. Jackson told the judge that his words were the truth and substantiated. He named four Haldimand County Council Members to the judge, Councillors Ashbaugh, Delimonte, Sloat and Paterson. Councilor Delimonte and Sloat are currently on Council.

I had one witness in Court, Mayor Trainer. My question to the Mayor was: Have I ever ambushed you? Response: No!

A few excerpts from Court;

Relating to the defence of fair comment. In the Marineland case Mr. Justice Henderson said this of fair comment:

..if the defendants raise the defence of fair comment, the defendants must plead the facts that were known at the time of the alleged libel in order to establish a substantive base for the defendants' comments.

Was the occasion of publication one enjoying qualified privilege? To once again quote Mr. Justice Gravel:

..for public policy reasons there are occasion's where, in addition to being able to make fair comment on true facts and although absolute privilege may not exist, a person may make defamatory statements which are untrue.
..the privilege attaches to the occasion and occurs when there are reciprocal duties of interests sufficient to trigger the public interest in disclosure.

I could go on and on, but I won't as this gets very technical. What I can tell you is that I represented myself and took this case to Small Claims Court in Cayuga. The Regional News tried to prove to the Court that I was in fact an "infamous" person, their defence failed.

What I have not had closure with is the fact the Mr. Jackson's comments were based on factual information from Elected Officials of Haldimand County. I have not been able to make them accountable for their actions as to date, but I am still working on that. Some may say that I should put this to bed! I refuse! Some have said get a tough skin! I do have that already. Some may say that I am being vindictive! I am not! Some may say that I have taken this personally, and I deserve what I got as I am a verbal person. Wrong! I have only wanted one thing, and it is a simply request, "accountability" from our "elected officials"


  1. Donna, I give you a lot of credit for being so honest. What I don't understand is how they can even think that they got away with this. We need to spread the news to as many people as we can. We need people like you to be verbal. Most of us don't have the guts.

  2. Shame on all of them. They should be fired.

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