Mayor, councilors threaten fellow members with defamation suit


The mayor and three members of West Nipissing council have threatened legal action against fellow council members if a letter related to an ongoing HR matter involving the CAO is released to the public.

A letter dated Feb. 25, 2022 was sent to members of council by Ronald F. Caza of the legal firm Caza Saikaley, which was retained by Mayor Joanne Savage and Councilors Yvon Duhaime, Lise Sénécal and Denis Sénécal. 

The document asserts that, among other things, if comments contained in a letter from the municipality’s lawyer, George Vuicic, sent to members of council on Nov. 29, 2021, are “repeated or distributed outside of council” then a lawsuit could be brought against “all individuals responsible, directly or indirectly, for making and distributing these defamatory comments.”

“Our instructions are to bring any and all civil actions as are necessary against all authors of defamatory comments to bring an end to the spread of false and malicious statements, and to obtain compensation for damages suffered as a result of that defamation,” read the letter from Caza.

Caza’s letter isn’t available through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request as it’s protected by a third-party exemption, but the Tribune was able to view a copy by other means.

Notably, the letter states that a workplace investigation report related to the CAO’s ongoing HR matter has been completed. However, the document alleges that the report was released to council despite objections by the council members who were involved with the HR matter. The report has not been made public and the Tribune is not privy to details related to the ongoing HR matter that has beleaguered council for many months.

“We have been mandated to consider all steps that would be taken before the Superior Court of Justice to remediate the present situation that continues to exist at council and within the upper echelons of municipal employees,” reads Caza’s letter.

Saying she was following legal advice, the mayor declined to comment on why she has taken this action.

“When it comes to issues relevant to HR matters and implications involving legal, I think one needs to depend on legal expertise to be able to guide you through the process,” said Savage. “I’m confident at a given time, more information will follow.”

Coun. Duhaime suggested the threat of legal action was a response to past actions from the four members of this fractured council that their side is in constant conflict with: councilors Dan Roveda, Rolly Larabie, Chris Fisher and Leo Malette.

“Enough is enough, you know they’ve done it to us, and we had a rebuttal because we’re forever being harassed and put into a situation, so it just gets to a point where enough is enough and that’s why we sent it,” said Duhaime.

The Tribune’s request for comment from the other councilors was not answered.

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  • This story was corrected from an earlier version, which stated that George Vuicic was Jay Barbeau’s lawyer. Vuicic is the lawyer for the municipality, Barbeau has also retained his own counsel for the matter. 

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