'I will not be intimidated': Coun. Druh Farrell fires back after lawsuit seeks her removal from office
Coun. Druh Farrell is being sued by the former owners of an Italian restaurant who want her removed from office, accusing the inner-city Councillor of “systematically” flouting her public duties, defamation and interference with a land-use application in Kensington.
In a statement of claim, the plaintiffs also accuse Farrell of offering her support for their mixed-use development application in exchange for a financial contribution to her 2013 re-election campaign and a pledge to not publicly display support for one of Farrell’s challengers in that year’s municipal election.
None of the allegations have been proven in court and a statement of defence has not yet been filed.
A numbered company filed the statement of claim. A corporate registry search lists Rocco Terrigno as the director of the company and Terrigno Family Trust as the shareholders. The family owned the Osteria de Medici restaurant on the corner of Kensington Road and 10th St. N.W.
The family own the property but the restaurant, now called Chef’s table, is under different management.
The statement of claim, filed May 15, shows the plaintiffs are seeking $211,535 in damages.
“The Defendant must be held accountable for her deliberate and intentional unlawful actions…”
Farrell, who received the statement of claim on May 22, declined to address the specifics of the lawsuit Tuesday but maintained the lawsuit won’t interfere with her duties on council.
“It is extremely disappointing to receive a Statement of Claim that is clearly designed to prevent a member of Council from doing her job,” she said in a written statement.
“I will not be intimidated by this lawsuit and fully intend to continue to advocate for the best interests of my constituents, Ward 7 communities, and all Calgarians. I have forwarded the Statement of Claim to the City Law Department for further handling. As this matter is before the courts, I have no further comment at this time.”
The list of complaints against the Ward 7 Councillor, who was first elected in 2001 and is seeking re-election in the October 16 vote, span nearly a decade.
In the statement of claim, the plaintiffs allege Farrell improperly “exercised her authority” in 2008 by compelling city bylaw officers to attend its Stampede event “in the hopes citations would be laid and, ultimately, the permits for the Stampede event revoked.”
The plaintiffs claim Farrell “did this as an abuse of her public office for her own economic self-interest” despite the Stampede event having the support of the community and the Kensington BRZ. Farrell lives within 100 metres of the restaurant.
“The people, including our clients, just expect honesty from the city councillors and this claim alleges that city councillor Druh Farrell fell short because she had a definite conflict of interest having her property value directly affected by that,” said Donna Gee, a lawyer with Guardian Law Group.
They further claim Farrell offered her conditional support for their 2015 application to build a 10-storey, mixed-use development on the corner of Kensington Road and 10th Street N.W. The Terrignos’ company was allowed to build up to eight storeys on the lot, but wanted something taller and larger despite neighbouring residents’ opposition.
The plaintiffs maintain Farrell would support the application if they donated $5,000 to her re-election campaign and refrained from openly supporting her main challenger, Kevin Taylor.
According to Farrell’s 2013 campaign finance disclosure, Jaroc Holdings Ltd., a company linked to Terrigno, donated $2,500 to her re-election bid that year.
The application was rejected by city council in a 8-6 vote and the Calgary Planning Commission. The planning commission hearings were marred by allegations of threats and intimidation against a planner and community members.
During a February 2015 meeting, Mike Terrigno, son of the restaurant’s founders, followed a city planner outside the commission room during the hearing — an incident that sparked an investigation by city hall and two “reports of threats” to the Calgary Police Service.
In the statement of claim, the plaintiffs seek to prevent Farrell from further votes on the land-use application, that she be removed from public office under the Municipal Government Act, quash council’s previous decision against the land-use application, and direct council — minus Farrell — to revisit the application.
“The Defendant must be held accountable for her deliberate and intentional unlawful actions that constitute dishonesty, bias, conflict of interest, discrimination, abuse of power, corruption, unfairness, and conduct that is deplorable of a public official,” the plaintiffs said in the court documents.
“The Plaintiff has suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable harm to its reputation and good standing in the community as a result of the actions of the Defendant.”
The plaintiff is seeking $100,000 for general damages for injurious falsehood and defamation, $61,535 for special damages, $50,000 for aggravated, exemplary and/or punitive damages, and legal costs.