Vic Fedeli serves libel notice on Patrick Brown over book allegations

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli has taken the first step in suing former PC leader Patrick Brown over statements in his recent book that a party staffer made a sexual misconduct complaint about Fedeli.

Ontario finance minister demands former PC leader retract claims of sexual misconduct complaint

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli is demanding a retraction and apology over statements in former PC leader Patrick Brown's recent book. (Julie-Anne Lamoureux/Radio-Canada)

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli has taken the first step in suing former PC leader Patrick Brown over statements in his recent book that a party staffer made a sexual misconduct complaint about Fedeli. 

In his book Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown, published in November, Brown says a female staffer left him a note accusing Fedeli of "inappropriate behaviour" in December 2017. 

Lawyers for Fedeli have served both Brown and the book's publisher Optimum Publishing International with a legal document called "notice of intent," a requirement before suing for libel.

The notice demands that Brown and the publisher retract the contentious statements and apologize to Fedeli.

"I did receive a lawyer's letter requesting my publisher remove the reference in Takedown which mentions a sexual misconduct complaint was made against Vic Fedeli," Brown said in a text message Wednesday.

Brown called the demand "perplexing, as the CBC has already independently verified that a complaint was indeed made."

Although CBC News has not seen the woman's handwritten note, her lawyer told CBC News last year that she formally complained about Fedeli's behaviour.

In his book Takedown: The Political Assassination of Patrick Brown, the former PC leader claims that a female party staffer accused Vic Fedeli of 'inappropriate behaviour' a month before Brown himself was forced to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Fedeli did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment. In November, immediately after the book was published, he called the accusations "categorically false and without any merit." 

"Facts relating to Mr. Brown's lack of credibility are well documented and on the public record, as are his motivations in using his book to pursue old grievances," Fedeli said in a statement at the time, adding that he was "prepared to take whatever action is necessary to hold any person making these false allegations accountable."

In his book, Brown gives no specific details about the woman's complaint against Fedeli. He writes about it immediately after mentioning Fedeli's public statements on the sexual misconduct allegations that forced Brown to resign last January.  

"I was surprised at Fedeli's cavalier, holier-than-thou attitude, given that he knew full well that he may have dodged a bullet himself," Brown writes.

"In December 2017, I received a handwritten note from an individual who worked for the party. In that note, she accused Fedeli of inappropriate behaviour," Brown continues. "Fedeli was informed that I intended to look into this matter. I also sent a strong message to him that he was not to contact or be around that individual." 

Brown's book was published in November, shortly after he won the election to become mayor of Brampton. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Brown writes that he spoke with the woman but that she wanted no investigation. 

"None of what she alleged in her note was ever proven in a court of law or ever went to court," writes Brown.  

The owner of Brown's publishing company, Dean Baxendale, said Wednesday that his company is surprised at Fedeli's demand for a retraction and an apology. 

"We are not alleging anything against Mr. Fedeli in the book and simply provided an anecdotal story that was illustrative of the author's perceived hypocrisy at Queen's Park," said Baxendale in a statement.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath asked in November for an independent investigation into the allegation against Fedeli.

Premier Doug Ford told the legislature that a third-party investigation into Fedeli had already been completed, and it did not reveal "a shred of evidence" against the finance minister.


Mike Crawley

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Mike Crawley is provincial affairs reporter in Ontario for CBC News. He has won awards for his reporting on the eHealth spending scandal and flaws in Ontario's welfare-payment computer system. Before joining the CBC in 2005, Mike filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist and worked as a newspaper reporter in B.C.