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Top City of Guelph official suing local blogger for defamation

Lawsuit seeks $500,000 over comments made over four years on a local city politics blog run by Gerry Barker
20160201 Deputy CAO Mark Amorosi KA
Deputy CAO Mark Amorosi. Ken Armstrong for GuelphToday.com

A top City of Guelph executive has filed a defamation lawsuit against a local blogger.

Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Mark Amorosi is suing Guelph resident Gerry Barker, seeking general damages of $400,000 and aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages of $100,000.

The suit is in relation to comments made by Barker on his GuelphSpeaks.ca blog, which for several years has focused primarily on Guelph's municipal government.

The 33-page lawsuit was filed by Amorosi in Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Nov. 15. None of the accusations have been proven in court and Barker has not yet filed a statement of defence.

It claims Barker's criticism of Amorosi is an attempt to get the Deputy CAO terminated or force him to resign and that Barker has acted "in knowing and reckless disregard for the truth."

Reached by phone, Barker politely declined comment.

Amorosi, reached by email, also declined comment but did say that his legal expenses would be covered by the city.

"As this matter arises out of my employment with the City, as per the Indemnification By-law (By-law Number (2015) – 19995), the City will be covering legal expenses incurred in this matter," Amorosi said.

The lawsuit details several blog posts Amorosi claims are false and defamatory dating back to 2012.

He claims Barker has made statements that when read and understood by "reasonable readers" would, among other things, inaccurately portray Amorosi as someone that doesn't know what he's talking about, misinforms the public, is irresponsible, distorts facts, gave himself and others unauthorized raises, is not qualified to be a Deputy CAO and is incompetent and irresponsible.

It also states Barker made no attempt to confirm facts, intentionally omits certain facts and that he has never interviewed or contacted Amorosi regarding the accusations.

A sampling of the blog posts in question:

- August 2016: "Mark Amorosi has overseen the most cathartic waste of public funds endured in recent memory.

- February 2012: "Not that I would ask Mark Amorosi for anything given his track record of stonewalling, lying by omission and bending the facts."

- March 2016: "One would presume that being in charge of two vital departments of the city, that Amorosi would be careful with the public's money. He was careful all right, he helped himself to a $26,868 raise in salary less than four months after being appointed DCAO."

- March 2016: "Amorosi, in his multi-responsibility Corporate Services job, is gatekeeper in charge of how much and who receives pay and benefit increases, including his own."

- April 2016: "The dereliction of responsibility here, rests with those four executive managers who helped themselves to the public treasury, conned the majority of council to approve them in closed session, and buried the result for a year."

The suit states that in September Amorosi's lawyer demanded the defamatory statements be removed, but that the request went ignored.

"Barker's defamatory campaign against Amorosi, as detailed above, has been calculated to injure Amorosi and hold him up to public scandal, ridicule, and contempt. As a result of the Defamatory Words, Amorosi has been injured in his character and reputation in the estimation of right-thinking persons, and has suffered, and will continue to suffer, damages as a result," it reads.

The suit also claims that defamatory comments made in the blog's comment section are Barker's responsibility.

Amorosi, who lives in Hamilton, has been with the city since 2007 and has been the Deputy CAO in charge of finance and human resources since 2014.

He is being represented in the case by Iain MacKinnon, of the Toronto law firm Linden & Associates.

In addition to $500,000, Amorosi is also seeking the removal of the statements he believes are defamatory, an injunction preventing Barker from further defamatory comments and court costs.