Ex- em­ployee counter- su­ing NPCA for $ 400,000

NPCA filed law­suit against Jo­ce­lyn Baker on Oct. 2 for break­ing ‘ ter­mi­na­tion’ agree­ment

The Welland Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - BILL SAWCHUK

A for­mer em­ployee of Ni­a­gara Penin­sula Con­ser­va­tion Author­ity is counter- su­ing the agency for $ 400,000.

Jo­ce­lyn Baker, who worked at NPCA for 23 years, is ask­ing the courts to make the agency pay $ 200,000 for defama­tion and an­other $ 200,000 for breach of con­tract.

She filed her law­suit in re­sponse to a suit NPCA filed against her on Oct. 2. The NPCA suit seeks $ 164,000 in dam­ages.

The NPCA law­suit al­leges Baker broke an agree­ment with it when Wel­land MPP Cindy Forster read an email from Baker on the floor of the On­tario leg­is­la­ture on Sept. 7. Forster’s speech was crit­i­cal of the agency and its prac­tices.

Baker, a for­mer man­ager of NPCA’s wa­ter­shed man­age­ment pro­gram, was “ter­mi­nated” from the con­ser­va­tion author­ity “with­out cause” on Nov. 21, 2016. The two sides reached a mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment on April 21, 2017, which paid Baker $ 83,964. In turn, she promised not to dis­par­age the agency “ver­bally, in writ­ing, dig­i­tally or in any other form.”

Baker’s email to Forster called

Mark Brick­ell, CAO of the con­ser­va­tion author­ity, said it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for him to com­ment on a le­gal mat­ter be­fore the courts, par­tic­u­larly through the me­dia.

He added NPCA “has full con­fi­dence in the courts, and looks for­ward to this mat­ter be­ing re­solved.”

In ask­ing for dam­ages, Baker’s al­leges Brick­ell for­mu­lated a plan in Au­gust to re­duce the agency’s in­volve­ment with her restora­tion pro­gram, and that he would have to throw the for­mer man­ager “un­der the bus” to save it.

Brick­ell was sub­se­quently quoted in The Stan­dard as say­ing NPCA had “un­cov­ered se­ri­ous de­fi­cien­cies in ac­count­abil­ity and over­sight in the restora­tion pro­gram.”

Baker’s counter- suit says that state­ment was made with “mal­ice” and led peo­ple to be­lieve Baker was guilty of “se­ri­ous mis­con­duct.”

In her state­ment of de­fence, Baker’s lawyer said NPCA’s at­tempt to re­cover dam­ages as a re­sult of a sin­gle, iso­lated email, “is an act of bad faith.”

Baker’s de­fence points out NPCA has been fac­ing an “avalanche of pub­lic crit­i­cism” in the press and so­cial me­dia. Given that the scru­tiny has come from an ar­ray of com­mu­nity groups and lo­cal politi­cians, it is im­pos­si­ble for Baker to have “tar­nished” NPCA’s im­age with her sin­gle, “iso­lated” email.

Baker’s state­ment said NPCA’s law­suit against her is a “vari­ant” of what is known as a SLAAP ( Strate­gic Law­suit Against Pub­lic Par­tic­i­pa­tion) suit.

SLAAP suits are de­fined as court ac­tion in­tended to in­tim­i­date and si­lence crit­ics of pub­lic agen­cies by bur­den­ing them with the costs and headaches of mount­ing a le­gal de­fence.

None of the al­le­ga­tions have been proven in court.

Baker

Brick­ell

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