A Penticton woman who claims she is being accused of defamation by the City of Penticton, spoke to the media and residents on the steps of city hall Wednesday.
Elvena Slump, who ran for council in 2008 and is a frequent letter writer to local papers, told those gathered that on Aug. 28, 2014, she received a letter from Harper Grey LLP, a Vancouver law firm, regarding defamation.
The letter was signed by Bryan G. Baynham, Q.C. acting on behalf of the City and its employees, she said.
In it, she said Baynham claims in an email sent on Aug. 19 that she said some unflattering words about the CAO, and CAO's position of power with council.
Slump, who is in her 70s, went on to say, "nowhere do I mention the CAO in my letter." My issue was the role of council and staff at in camera meetings.
"I have no way of knowing whether the CAO is present or not at in camera meetings," she explained. "My letter was addressed to council and was sent as a letter to the editor of the Penticton Herald. As a courtesy, the CAO was included in the email as she is the only recognized employee at city hall. The corporate officer was included in the email as the mechanics of in camera meetings are part of her job description."
Then according to the letter from the lawyer, she claimed, on July 13, 2014, I attacked the competence, experience and ability of the CAO and the CFO and that the City was wrongly saddled with her (the CAO) moving expense and that the CFO was stumbling from one mistake to the next.
The statement read by Slump at the press conference goes on to say that the lawyer's letter alleges that on Aug. 8, she said that the communications officer should be terminated, because her veracity must be questioned that she had undue influence over council and council committees.
But Slump claims she said no such thing
"I said her veracity must be questioned," she said. "In my opinion as a recent employee of Penticton Western and an acknowledged expert by Mayor Litke, her place on the committee that made the decision on awarding a contract to the Penticton Western was unsuitable."
She added that Baynham required a written commitment that the emails were not forwarded to anyone else or copied to anyone other than James Miller, editor of the Penticton Herald.
But she respectfully declined to make that committment, stating she has not been found guilty of anything and until she is her personal communications are her own business.
She concluded by saying if the city sues her, the court case will likely take one to two years to wind its way through the courts with no guarantee that the City will win.
"Taxpayers in Penticton are looking at another $100,000 in legal fees," she said, after earlier making a reference to the PHA case. "These tax dollars do not belong to city council or its employees. I believe that Penticton City Council is sue happy and has stepped over the line. Taxpayers have better use for their tax dollars than pursuing individual taxpayers of Penticton with legal action for comments they might have made."
Lastly, she added, "Keep your head down. Go to work everyday and pay your taxes. Do not offer any advice or criticism. If you do......we will hammer you into the ground."
Slump's lengthy statement drew applause from those gathered. There was also laughter as she made comments regarding that running for council now would interfere with her nap time.
She was also grateful to those who came to hear what she had to say.
"Today makes me feel wonderful. I appreciate the support I see here," she said.
Councillor John Vassilaki, stated at the press conference, that the first he heard of this was on Monday night.
"Tuesday we had an in camera meeting and I can't discuss what was discussed at that meeting. But city council did not vote on this, we did not participate in it and don't ask me who brought it forward, I have no idea."