A Calgary family that has a "long history" of bad blood with Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell is seeking her removal from office through a lawsuit, based on the city politician's "dishonesty" and "targeted malice" in her efforts to kill a proposed development in Kensington.
That's according to a statement of claim filed by a numbered company, which a corporate registry search shows is attached to Rocco Terrigno and Terrigno Investments Inc. The lawsuit also seeks $200,000 from the councillor.
The Terrigno family owned high-end Italian restaurant Osteria de Medici — now called Osteria Chef's Table and under new management — which is not only in Ward 7 but is less than 100 metres from Farrell's home in Kensington. The family still owns the property.
Farrell is accused of using her position and power in order to kill a proposed development of the Osteria restaurant property on the corner of Kensington Road and 10th Street N.W. into an 10-storey complex with a public plaza.
'I will not be intimidated'
None of the allegations made against Farrell in a statement of claim filed last week at the Calgary Courts Centre has been proven in court.
The councillor says it is "extremely disappointing" to receive a statement of claim "clearly designed" to prevent her from doing her job.
"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," wrote Farrell in a statement to CBC News. "I have forwarded the statement of claim to the city law department for further handling."
Farrell has not yet filed a statement of defence.
Stampede parties kick-off conflict
The court documents say conflict between the councillor and the Terrigno family dates back to 2008, when Osteria began hosting Stampede parties at a tent erected in its parking lot.
The lawsuit accuses Farrell of "repeatedly and improperly" exercising her authority by having bylaw officers attend the event to issue tickets with the ultimate goal of having the party permanently shut down.
The statement of claim also alleges Farrell brought a motion to council aimed at changing the city's special event bylaw in an effort to shut down future party permit approvals.
"She did this as an abuse of her public office for her own economic self-interest even though the Stampede event was supported by the community, the Kensington BRZ and is approved each year by the city planning department," reads the statement of claim.
The document also alleges Farrell failed to disclose her financial interests — since she lived so close to the restaurant — before voting on changes to a party permit bylaw, amounting to "abuse of public office for her own personal gain."
Terrigno makes donation to Farrell campaign
The conflict ramped up, according to the documents, when the Terrignos filed a land-use redesignation application to the city's planning commission, seeking to build a 10-storey condo and commercial tower on its Osteria property.
The lawsuit alleges that in the months ahead of the 2013 municipal election, the Terrignos were told that in order to gain Farrell's support for the proposed development they would not be able to publicly support her opponent, Kevin Taylor, and must make a political donation to her campaign.
Campaign disclosure records show Jaroc Holdings — a company associated with Rocco Terrigno — did make a $2,500 donation to Farrell's campaign in 2013.
The Terrigno family also claims in its statement, that Farrell told them she would support the proposed development if architect Jeremy Sturgess — who is described in the lawsuit as a "close political activist, close friend and agent" of the city councillor — was hired.
Development application rejected
The Terrignos' application went before council on May 11, 2015, and was rejected by a 8-6 vote.
Voting against the project was Farrell, Evan Woolley, Gian-Carlo Carra, Diane Colley-Urquhart, Richard Pootmans, Jim Stevenson, Brian Pincott and Naheed Nenshi.
Ward Sutherland, Andre Chabot, Peter Demong, Sean Chu, Joe Magliocca and Shane Keating voted in favour of the development.
Two months before that vote, at a planning meeting, Rocco Terrigno's son Mike followed a city planner outside the meeting and was accused of threatening him.
Lawsuit claims conflict
The lawsuit claims various city councillors told Farrell she was in a potential conflict, should declare her financial interest and should recuse herself from the vote. It also alleges Farrell "vigorously lobbied" other councillors to oppose the project.
"Were it not for the financial interest, dishonesty, targeted malice, bad faith conduct and inherent bias of the defendant, the land-use application would have been approved," reads the statement.
The Terrignos feel as though they've been denied their right to develop the Kensington property, according to the family's lawyer Donna Gee.
"People expect honesty from their city councillors," she said. "Councillor Farrell fell short in that area."
Because Farrell lived within metres of the proposed development, the lawsuit claims she had a financial interest which she failed to disclose "as a further means to disguise her deplorable conduct."
Terrigno lawyer denies election timing
"[Farrell] 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," reads the document.
With just months to go before the 2017 municipal election, there's "no question" the plaintiff was thinking about the political damage this lawsuit might do to Farrell's campaign, according to Mount Royal University political science professor Lori Williams.
"At least in theory, an action like this could have an impact on that election," said Williams.
Gee says her clients did not deliberately time the lawsuit to an election year and that it was filed in accordance with rules that prevent someone from suing within two years of an incident — in this case the development vote.
Farrell must now file a statement of defence.
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