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Town offers settlement in litigation against councillor

Coun. Bill Gordon says he considers the case settled; Mayor Stewart Strathearn says he's awaiting final word from the third-party lawyer to confirm the news.

Coun. Bill Gordon says he will be sleeping peacefully at night knowing he has fullfilled his oath regarding the secrecy of Midland Police Service records.

He said this after accepting an offer put forward in March by the Town of Midland.

"I think it's as good as I was going to get, short of having a full hearing," Gordon said in a conversation with MidlandToday. "As strong as I believe my case is, there's always the chance that there's an adjudicator that doesn't buy it. And if that would have happened, they would have thrown all their legal expenses on me."

According to a March 20 letter he signed and sent to the town's external lawyer, Gordon agreed to hand over the passwords in return for the assurance that a mutually accepted settlement has been reached between the two parties. He further asks that Ren Bucholz, legal counsel for Midland and its Police Services Board, only share the information with those authorized to view it and that Gordon not be held liable otherwise.

"(Ren Bucholz) can then undertake the sorting of the data and assume all responsibility and liability for its care, custody and disclosure to the OPP, the former Midland Police Services Board, Town of Midland or anyone else he chooses to make it available to," writes Gordon.

He said he believes his duty is done, as even after a month of having handed over the passwords, he hasn't heard back from the lawyers who were to test the information.

While he considers the case settled, Gordon said the town is being coy since council has not yet publicly announced the settlement.

Mayor Stewart Strathearn said it's because there is no settlement as yet.

"It's still in the hands of the lawyers and I'm not really at liberty to comment on it," he noted. "I think it's a bit premature."

The town can only make an announcement when it's sure it has access to the information on the drives, added Strathearn.

As for Gordon's believing that it's settled, the mayor said, "(Gordon) is at liberty to claim as he wishes. If things unfold as they should, then we will probably reach the settlement, because it's still in the hands of the attorney."

Gordon, on the other hand, said it's not his problem anymore.

"I just needed to pass this onto someone and have the ability to sleep at night knowing I hadn't passed it to the town," he said. "I can live with that."

According to Gordon, the information included every piece of digital data Midland Police Service had collected since 1996, such as criminal records, youth criminal justice items, names of confidential informants, and names of undercover police officers.

"Ideally, we would have destroyed it," he said. "The OPP doesn't need any of this. It was destined for destruction."

But $20,000 in legal fees later, Gordon has settled to hand it over to an officer of the court.

"What bothers me the most is that the Town of Midland never asked me for the passwords," he said. "Nor did they afford me an opportunity to tell them what my concerns were. They went right to litigation."

Luckily for Gordon, he said the settlement offer didn't include a gag order, "which leads me to believe they didn't think I would take it."

But Gordon said he did it because it was the next best thing to do. 

"I can take a lot of shit in this world, but my integrity is something I will fight (for) and defend at all costs," he said. "It's the only thing in this world nobody can take away from you, you have to give it away yourself. They attacked that and they continue to by not admitting this deal is done when clearly it is."  

Mehreen Shahid

About the Author: Mehreen Shahid

Mehreen Shahid covers civic matters under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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