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Vic Fedeli suing Patrick Brown for $8M over ‘defamatory’ allegations in memoir

Vic Fedeli, Ontario minister of finance, tables the government's Fall Economic Statement for 2018-2019 at Queen's Park in Toronto on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018.
Vic Fedeli, Ontario minister of finance, tables the government's Fall Economic Statement for 2018-2019 at Queen's Park in Toronto on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli has filed an $8-million lawsuit against former Conservative leader Patrick Brown over alleged “false and defamatory statements” made in Brown’s memoir.

In an 18-page statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court, Fedeli alleges Brown and Optimum Publishing International defamed him in the book Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown when they said Fedeli “engaged in workplace sexual harassment” as interim PC leader last year.

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“The respective defendants had maliciously defamed Fedeli, making and widely publicizing a series of allegations intended and timed to cause maximum damage to his reputation,” the statement of claim said.

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Patrick Flaherty, Fedeli’s lawyer, said in the lawsuit that “numerous false and defamatory statements” were made about Minister Fedeli in the book and in subsequent media appearances by Brown.

In addition to the “workplace sexual harassment” allegation, other allegedly false statements complained of in the lawsuit included describing Fedeli as a “hypocrite” with a “holier-than-thou” attitude, as being “duplicitous,” “dishonest” and a “disloyal” “political opportunist” “who employed ‘henchmen’ to do his dirty bidding.”

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The statement also points to an allegedly false 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 the sexual harassment complainant from public funds to silence her.”

“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 said.

None of the allegations made in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

READ MORE: Patrick Brown calls Lisa MacLeod ‘nasty,’ ‘angry,’ says members of PC Caucus ‘hated her’ in new book

In addition to Brown and Optimum Publishing, the lawsuit also names the parent company JF Moore Lithographers Inc. of Toronto and their owner Dean Baxendale. No statement of defence has been filed.

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Baxendale told Global News he has not been served with a lawsuit, but if and when he is, “we will respond appropriately.”

“It’s clear that they have taken the words out of context,” Baxendale said after reading media reports. “As publisher, I stand by the written word. I think this grandstanding.”

Brown, now mayor of Brampton, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Global News. In an interview with CP24 on Thursday, Brown said he hasn’t been formally served, but disputed many of the allegations in the statement of claim.

“I understand that the central claim is that he is upset that the book referencing a claim that was made against him,” Brown said. “I would note that the CBC and Global have already independently verified that a claim was made against him. I am not saying whether the claim was accurate or not but a claim was made so the fact that he would want that removed is a little perplexing.”

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The statement of claim appears to take issue with a section of the book that alleges Fedeli was accused of sexual-misconduct allegations made by a former female Queen’s Park staffer.

“A little-known fact is that in December 2017, I received a handwritten note from an individual who worked for the party. In that note, she accused Fedeli of inappropriate behaviour. The letter had been left on my Queen’s Park office desk. While, frankly, the accusations were not anything I could picture being consistent with Fedeli’s character, my personal assessment of him was obviously irrelevant and not enough to disregard the allegations,” Brown continued.

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Global News reported in November that a letter was leaked to media in 2017, and posted on social media detailing the allegations.

The letter’s recipient is redacted but it appears to be written by Ontario lawyer Judith Wilcox.

“As discussed, I have a client that is prepared to make a public statement in respect of conduct amounting to workplace sexual harassment and misconduct by Vic Fedeli,” the letter said.

Global News reached out to Wilcox for comment on Thursday but has not yet received a response.

Also leaked with the letter was a draft of a press release allegedly from Wilcox’s firm dated Jan. 30, 2018.

“The incidents of sexual harassment and misconduct occurred numerous times over the past 12 months at the female’s workplace, Queen’s Park,” read the press release dated Jan. 30, 2018. “Vic Fedeli would greet me and then proceed to kiss and hug me. Upon releasing me from the embrace he would glide his hands up against the side of my breasts.”

READ MORE: Patrick Brown says he is the victim of a ‘fabricated political assassination’

Global has not verified the allegations in the letter and the allegation has not been proven.

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Fedeli declined to comment when contacted by Global News, but in a previous statement, Fedeli said there is “no validity whatsoever to any of these allegations,” and said Brown’s accusations are “categorically false.”

“Throughout my career, I have held myself to a high ethical standard in my interactions with others. There is no validity whatsoever to any of these allegations,” Fedeli said. “Any accusation or insinuation to the contrary is false and malicious. I have retained legal counsel and am prepared to take whatever action is necessary to hold any person making these false allegations.”

Brown is currently suing CTV News for $8 million in a separate lawsuit over allegations of sexual misconduct involving two young women published in January 2018. Brown, who denied the allegations, later resigned as PC leader clearing the way for Doug Ford to run.

CTV has said it stands by the reporting.

Fedeli is seeking $4 million in general damages, $2 million in aggravated damages and $2 million in punitive damages.

“Brown was at all material times fully aware, or should have been aware, that the repetition and publication of allegations against an individual involving alleged sexual misconduct … would be widely repeated and would be highly damaging to the reputation of the individual at issue,” the statement said. “Takedown comprises an attempt by Brown to ‘settle scores’ against all those individuals that he perceives were responsible for, or benefitted from, the circumstances leading to his resignation as leader of the PCPO.”

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*With files from Travis Dhanraj 

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