Ottawa Citizen

$6M li­bel case against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford tossed

Judge ques­tions plain­tiff’s cred­i­bil­ity

- CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD

TORONTO • An On­tario Su­pe­rior Court judge has tossed a $6-mil­lion li­bel suit against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, say­ing there is “se­ri­ous doubt” about the cred­i­bil­ity of the restau­ra­teur who launched it.

Ge­orge Foulidis, who runs the con­tro­ver­sial Board­walk Café on prime waterfront land, was su­ing Ford, then a coun­cil­lor run­ning for the may­oralty, and an­other former can­di­date for mu­nic­i­pal of­fice, Bruce Baker.

Judge John Macdon­ald crisply dis­missed both ac­tions in sep­a­rate de­ci­sions re­leased Thurs­day.

The judge found that when Ford said the city’s un­ten­dered, 20-year deal with the café stank to high heaven and smacked of cor­rup­tion, he wasn’t ac­cus­ing any­one, merely voic­ing a sus­pi­cion.

Ford made the re­marks in a lengthy meet­ing with the ed­i­to­rial board of the Toronto Sun. The news­pa­per wasn’t sued.

And about Baker, who had sent city coun­cil a let­ter from some­one else ac­cus­ing Foulidis of im­prop­erly in­flu­enc­ing the city to se­cure the deal, Macdon­ald said Baker had as a can­di­date some qual­i­fied priv­i­lege, was act­ing in the pub­lic in­ter­est, and that other com­ments he made in the let­ter were cov­ered by the de­fence of fair com­ment.

But the judge’s most damn­ing re­marks came in a sec­tion of the Ford de­ci­sion where he dealt with Foulidis’s tes­ti­mony at trial last month.

He noted that an­other court had found Foulidis “was the per­son pri­mar­ily re­spon­si­ble for mov­ing” some of his fam­ily’s as­sets — the find­ing, up­held on ap­peal in 2005, was that his fam­ily had par­tic­i­pated in what’s called a “fraud­u­lent con­veyance” — and said Foulidis at first “de­nied his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the fraud.”

“He even­tu­ally ad­mit­ted it, re­luc­tantly, af­ter rea­sons for judg­ment of this court and fur­ther rea­sons for judg­ment of the Court of Ap­peal … were put to him,” Macdon­ald wrote.

The judge con­cluded Foulidis “at­tempted to mis­lead this court about his past fraud­u­lent con­duct.

“Hav­ing con­sid­ered this in the con­text of the whole of the ev­i­dence, I am left with se­ri­ous doubt about the cred­i­bil­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity of his tes­ti­mony.”

It was a sharp re­buke to the 53-year-old Foulidis, who had tes­ti­fied he was deeply of­fended by Ford’s re­marks in the Sun and felt his rep­u­ta­tion as an hon­est and rep­utable busi­ness­man had been se­ri­ously in­jured. He even grew teary in the wit­ness stand as he re­mem­bered be­ing asked by his young daugh­ter if he had done some­thing wrong.

The judge de­clined to “in­fer any con­nec­tion” be­tween what Ford had told the Sun and Foulidis’s “as­ser­tion that his daugh­ter had asked him a trou­bling ques­tion.”

In a fi­nal swipe at the strength of the case be­fore him, the judge made a pro­vi­sional find­ing on gen­eral dam­ages, which would ap­ply only if his de­ci­sion were to be over­turned at ap­peal and a higher court found he was wrong.

Again re­fer­ring to Foulidis’s “par­tic­i­pa­tion in a fraud” in 2004, Macdon­ald as­sessed gen­eral dam­ages at $20,000, a far cry from $6 mil­lion.

 ?? MICHELLE SIU /THE CANA­DIAN PRESS ?? A judge cast doubt on the cred­i­bil­ity of a Toronto busi­ness­man who is su­ing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
MICHELLE SIU /THE CANA­DIAN PRESS A judge cast doubt on the cred­i­bil­ity of a Toronto busi­ness­man who is su­ing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

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