CALGARY- Just days after learning he is facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit, Mayor Naheed Nenshi called the move “disappointing” but says he isn’t surprised.
Cal Wenzel, the founder of Shane Homes, is suing Nenshi for $5 million in general damages, along with $1 million in punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages. Wenzel is claiming damage to his reputation stemming from comments made by the mayor following the release of a secretly taped video.
Global News obtained an edited recording of a November meeting hosted by Wenzel in April. In the video, Wenzel presents a plan to defeat select members of city council who are perceived to be anti-development.
After the story broke last April, Nenshi and local labour unions called for an investigation into developer campaign contributions. No investigation has since been launched by any agency.
The suit, which is unproven in court, claims Nenshi distorted comments made by Wenzel in the video for political gain.
On Monday, the mayor read a statement at a news conference, saying he plans to defend himself.
“Mr. Wenzel, through his own actions, is the architect of his situation. He’s the one who decided how he was going to try to influence the election, he’s the one who decided to hold that so-called secret meeting,” Nenshi said. “This lawsuit is extremely disappointing, but I’m not surprised by his use of legal action. Let’s recall that Mr. Wenzel stated back in April that quote, ‘our family is more resolved than ever to go after him’ meaning me. And it appears that he’s making good on that threat.”
He added that he believes the lawsuit is “very dangerous.”
“It’s dangerous because it possesses a very significant risk of chilling political discourse and chilling freedom of speech in this country. These types of lawsuits will make it extremely difficult for council members to do their jobs. It could discourage people for running for public office, if they knew they might be the subject of costly and groundless litigation.”
So far, it’s not clear who will pay for Nenshi’s defence.
“As to the question of cost, I don’t have much to comment on, on this matter. The city is asking its insurer to confirm whether or not this matter is covered under the city’s insurance policies. But as I will note, I am not a wealthy man. I left the private sector 13 years ago to devote myself to education, public service and community work. This suit, including the outrageous damages that Mr. Wenzel is seeking is clearly designed to scare me, and to scare others.”
Nenshi says he would be willing to sit down with Wenzel, to discuss the issue away from court.
“Mr. Wenzel and I have never had a discussion about his problems with the city or with me. To my knowledge he’s never asked for a meeting. I have always been willing and I continue to be willing to sit down with him anytime, anyplace and have a conversation. I think that would be a far better way to handle a complaint rather than running to the courts.”
A statement of defence has not yet been filed.
LETTER FROM NENSHI’S LEGAL COUNSEL