When the plan to start the South Stormont News rolled forward it was simple and basic.
Help promote the community and offer something that most communities its size don’t have any longer, a local news presence.
The South Stormont News was incorporated in Ingleside. A deal was struck for a one year contract to publish the Township Bulletin at less than 10% per year than the Township was paying to have it published in Quebec owned TC media’s Seaway News which was based in Cornwall.
Further to that it was given an extra 20% discount on all additional advertising. Distribution was via Canada Post, home delivery, and drop off points at merchants.
Yet one elected official opposed it because she was upset at this newspaper publishing her antics which resulted in her getting sanctioned by South Stormont’s integrity commissioner.
When the South Stormont Council voted 4-1 to the contract for one year Deputy Mayor Tammy Hart released a memo clearly positing false information suggesting SSN was getting “start up” funds or “loans” which it never was or were even discussed.
She and current mayor Jim Bancroft actually campaigned on terminating the contract with SSN to publish the bulletin. It was just about the first thing council did after the election.
However the Township of South Stormont refused to pay the balance of the contract for one year which was discounted because of its term.
The South Stormont News, after hitting a communications brick wall with the township, issued suit to collect. It also stopped print distribution due to the impact of intimidation of some of its clients attributed to the actions of the Deputy Mayor.
To date the Township has spent nearly four times the value of the claim fighting and dragging it out.
The first trial date ended after half a day as it turned out that CAO Betty Dehaan was in Conflict of Interest with the judge. This was after an initial query of Conflict was not moved on before the trial commenced.
The second trial date was Friday March 18th. The SSN team led by Paralegal James Moak, and witnesses were there promptly, but the township did not.
After a half hour delay the court heard via telephone from Township lawyer Hali Adair. Ms Adair claimed a schedule mix up due to her leaving the Township’s legal firm to start up her own shop.
She shared that the CAO had contacted her that morning. Ms Adair did not contact Mr. Moak to give him notice which many would consider proper and professional conduct in such a situation.
The township will most likely be hit with “Costs” for the lost day, especially in light of having an out of town justice hear it.
The township to date has had to pay heavy legal bills for establishing the claim, going through the settlement hearing, the first mistrial, ironically the bill Ms Adair most likely furnish for her time on Friday, and ultimately the actual trial which a reasonable person would deduce that had very little chance of winning.
One has to ask if Ms Hart or the rest of council would run up a bill that might crest $20,000 of South Stormont Tax dollars if the cash was coming out of their own pockets?
Ultimately the Township will most likely have to pay the claim, pay the additional costs awarded via the lost court days, costs per Small Claims court formula, and all of that dwarfed by its own legal bill.
What do you think dear CFN viewers? Do you think Ms Hart, Mayor Bancroft, and South Stormont Council are spending public dollars well? You can post your comments below.