Finance Minister Vic Fedeli is suing Patrick Brown for $8 million, alleging a “vicious and petulant attack” through “false and defamatory statements” in the former Progressive Conservative leader’s memoir.
In an 18-page statement of claim, Fedeli, now a key cabinet member in Premier Doug Ford’s government, said Brown and Optimum Publishing International defamed him when the book said that he “engaged in workplace sexual harassment” as interim PC leader last winter.
Fedeli’s statement of claim also says “numerous false and defamatory statements” were made about the minister in the book and in subsequent media interviews by Brown to promote the book.
Brown’s book, Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown was published the same day Fedeli delivered the PC government’s first fall economic statement last November in a deliberate attempt to cause “maximum damage,” Fedeli’s lawyer, Patrick Flaherty, said in the statement of claim said.
It was “a day that the defendants knew that Fedeli would be required to give multiple media interviews, at which he would be confronted with the allegations in Takedown,” the claim said.
None of the allegations made in the statement of claim have been proven in court.
Fedeli’s lawsuit names Brown, Optimum Publishing, its parent company JF Moore Lithographers Inc of Toronto and their owner Dean Baxendale and was filed in Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Wednesday. No statement of defence has been filed.
A statement was issued by Baxendale after he and Brown were contacted by the Star.
“Neither Optimum nor the author have been served with any claim at this time. If and when a claim is served, we will respond appropriately,” Baxendale said.
The statement of claim said the false and defamatory statements include a “workplace sexual harassment” allegation, descriptions of Fedeli as having a “holier-than-thou” attitude and being a “suck up,” along with descriptions of the former North Bay mayor as toxic, power-hungry, anti-democratic and a political opportunist “who employed ‘henchmen’ to do his dirty bidding.” The false statements also include the claim made in the book that “Fedeli abused his power as interim leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario to have a sexual-harassment complainant removed from her job and improperly paid off…from public funds to silence her,” the statement of claim said.
“Fedeli has been exposed to hatred, ridicule and contempt, including on social media such as Twitter, and has suffered, and will continue to suffer, damage to his feelings and reputation,” the statement of claim said.
Brown, as a lawyer and politician, knew or should have known because of his CTV lawsuit that “the repetition and publication of allegations against an individual involved alleged sexual misconduct, particularly when the individual is an elected representative, would be widely repeated and would be highly damaging,” the statement of claim said.
“This was even more so given the “#MeToo” movement that had emerged and come into prominence in the public consciousness,” the statement of claim said.
Brown is suing CTV News for $8 million in a separate defamation action over allegations of sexual misconduct with two young women in a Jan. 24, 2018 story that prompted Brown to resign as PC leader. Brown has denied the allegations. CTV stands by its reporting.
Fedeli was interim leader after Brown’s departure and held the post until Doug Ford took over following a leadership convention last March.
Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie