Richmond Hill councillor leaves threatening voicemail over name of open mic night

Two local music promoters are accusing a Richmond Hill town councillor of harassment and intimidation — all over the name of their open mic night.

Ward 5 councillor demands Ward 5 Jam change its name, arguing only she can use the term Ward 5

A band performs as part of a recent Ward 5 Jam night in Richmond Hill. One councillor is upset with the event's name, suggesting only she can use the term 'Ward 5.' (Submitted by York Region Open Mic)

Two local music promoters are accusing a Richmond Hill town councillor of harassment and intimidation — all over the name of their open mic night.

Steffi Goodfield and Matt Bergman organize the Ward 5 Jam, a regular event. Now they've filed a complaint with the town's integrity commissioner over a series of threats from the Ward 5 councillor, Karen Cilevitz, who has been repeatedly warning them to change the event's name.

On a voicemail left for Goodfield, Cilevitz tells them that only she's entitled to use the term "Ward 5."

Town officials confirm that's not true.    

"If Matt Bergman and you in any way name your event — which does not have my sponsorship or my authority — as the Ward 5 Jam … I will take legal action against both of you. This is not a joke," Cilevitz said in the angry message, which was shared with CBC Toronto.

You can listen to that voicemail in the clip below:

Richmond Hill Coun. Karen Cilevitz left this message on a constituent's voicemail. 1:51
 Cilevitz admits that's her on the voicemail.

"I got very upset about it because I knew the individual who was using the name," Cilevitz said, adding she now regrets leaving the message.

"As the elected official for Ward 5, and even as a private individual, I felt that I had the right to protect myself from being associated with [Bergman]."

Coun. Karen Cilevitz says she left the message to protect her reputation. (Grant Linton/CBC )

Cilevitz refused to say why she didn't want to be associated with Bergman. Both sides say they've known each other for some time.

The dispute began earlier this year and Cilevitz admits she has sent several messages to Goodfield — who is currently undergoing cancer treatment, something the councillor is aware of — and Bergman over the months. 

Organizers want town investigation

Steffi Goodfield, right, and Matt Bergman have filed a complaint with the town's integrity commissioner. (Grant Linton/CBC)

Goodfield says the messages have been hard to take.

"The messages kept coming and I stopped responding and they got more and more angry and finally there was a voicemail," Goodfield said. 

We even put a disclaimer on the event that says it is in no way sponsored by the town or the councillors.- Matt Bergman, concert organizer

"After seeing the messages, I was scared. I didn't want to listen to it," she said. 

Bergman and Goodfield say there's nothing wrong with their event, and they're hoping the town will now step in and investigate the councillor's actions. 

Although Cilevitz says she recognizes that she has no ownership of the term, she says she should be the only one using it to identify her events. 

Cilevitz suggests the shows are not "positive" events, but offered no explanation about what that means. 

Richmond Hill Mayor David Barrow says he does not know exactly what Cilevitz has told Bergman and Goodfield, but that he does not "condone bad behaviour and treating people without respect."

Bergman and Goodfield are standing by their shows. They say the jams build community and promote local talent, while also benefiting local businesses.

"We even put a disclaimer on the event that says it is in no way sponsored by the town or the councillors. That was the name of the ward we were in, and we were just having fun," Bergman said.

About the Author

Ilina Ghosh

CBC News

Ilina Ghosh is one of this year's recipients of the CBC News Joan Donaldson Scholarship. She is currently working as a web writer and associate producer with CBC News. She has previously worked with CBC Radio and the Globe and Mail.

With files from Farrah Merali and John Rieti