PENTICTON, B.C. — Elvena Slump, 75, feels a responsibility to keep Penticton council and city staff accountable for their actions.
Her criticisms and concerns are regularly published in the letter to the editor sections of local newspapers.
But now those letters may be getting her into trouble.
“Free speech is dead in Penticton,” Slump declares.
Last week, she received a letter from Vancouver law firm Harper Grey LLP, accusing her of defaming three top bureaucrats at the city of Penticton.
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The letter says: “Your allegations are defamatory and unfounded…the employees are entitled to damages for the defamatory statements made about the and collectively reserve the right to seek damages from you.”
In Slump’s letters, she accuses one city staff of being addicted to power and bullying city council members, and says another stumbles from one mistake to another.
Deputy Mayor Judy Sentes explains that city staff felt harassed and threatened by Slump, and hiring a lawyer was a result of following WorkSafe BC protocols to ensure a safe work environment.
“Where that authorization came from? I’d imagine the city’s H.R. had a great deal to do this because that is their function in the defense of staff who feel like they’ve been victimized,” says Sentes.
Councillor John Vassilaki attended Slump’s press conference and says city council was not informed of the potential lawsuit.
He also admits that this may not have been the best course of action.
“Do I think a citizen should be taken to task because they’re putting their views forward? I don’t think so, that’s my personal view,” Vassilaki says.
Slump says she felt bullied when she received the letter.
The city’s lawyer says: “I expect to be a recipient of a full apology and retraction within the next week.”
The letter was dated August 28, which means the deadline is tomorrow.
But Slump will not be retracting her statements or saying sorry.
“I will not apologize for something I didn’t do,” she says.