Mountie wins slander suit against small-town gossip
A Saskatchewan Mountie has won a defamation lawsuit against a Wynyard man who spread salacious rumours about him around town.
Queen's Bench Justice Murray Acton awarded RCMP officer Larry Kurtenbach $18,000 in damages and legal costs.
In his recently released 12-page decision, Acton said Larry Kurtenbach is a hard-working, respected and responsible police officer who does not deserve having his reputation attacked.
The man who will have to pay is Harry Lalach, a longtime resident of Wynyard who works in the local cemetery.
According to Acton's ruling, Lalach didn't like it when he saw RCMP officers taking what he thought were too many coffee breaks in the local café.
Lalach had other gripes about the detachment, which he took to a formal complaints office in 2004.
To bolster his position, Lalach started talking up the townsfolk, accusing one officer, Kurtenbach, of having an affair with a 19-year-old woman.
That was too much for Kurtenbach, who was concerned about what the accusations would do to his family and career.
Kurtenbach sued Lalach, who denied he defamed him, but the judge ruled in Kurtenbach's favour.
"His conduct was beyond reproach," Acton wrote in the Jan. 14 decision. "These defamatory remarks in a small town atmosphere could seriously affect not only his personal life and family relationships, but his career as well."
The judge found that Lalach was on a campaign to ruin the reputation of the officer, and had even bragged about running another officer out of town years ago. The judge also said he wasn't impressed with how Lalach conducted himself at the trial.
"His demeanour and evidence to the very end of the trial was one of arrogance and disrespect not only for the plaintiff but for his two witnesses as well," Acton wrote.
Contacted by CBC, Kurtenbach said he didn't want to talk about the episode. Lalach could not be reached for comment.
Wynyard is a town of about 1,700 people, located about 260 kilometres east of Saskatoon.