Defamation lawsuit against Ottawa councillor dropped by constituents

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Osgoode Coun. George Darouze listens during a committee meeting May 10, 2019. A lawsuit against him by two constituents has been dropped, his lawyer confirmed. (Laura Osman/CBC - image credit)
Osgoode Coun. George Darouze listens during a committee meeting May 10, 2019. A lawsuit against him by two constituents has been dropped, his lawyer confirmed. (Laura Osman/CBC - image credit)

A lawsuit against Ottawa Coun. George Darouze is being dropped by the plaintiffs.

Darouze was facing a civil action against him for defamation, breach of privacy and other costs in small claims court by the same Osgoode-area couple who filed an official complaint with integrity commissioner.

But the couple has since withdrawn the claim, Darouze's lawyer confirmed.

In September 2019, Darouze became the city's first-ever elected official to be found guilty of contravening the councillor code of conduct by the integrity commissioner since that office was created in 2012.

The councillor was found to have acted in an "unjustified and excessive" manner when he tried to silence a woman who criticized him on social media during the 2018 municipal election by writing to her husband's boss, the chief of police.

Integrity commissioner Robert Marleau's report called Darouze's version of events "not credible" and said the major motivation behind his letter-writing "was to bully and intimidate" the complainants and "cause grief" for the police officer at work.

Although the integrity commissioner keeps the names of complainants confidential, the suit identifies them as Kristen and Reinhard Lechleitner. Reinhard Lechleitner has been an officer with the Ottawa Police Service for more than a decade.

The couple had been seeking $32,500 in damages, arguing the councillor's actions damaged their reputations in the community and, for Reinhard Lechleitner, his workplace.

Chief forwarded councillor's complaint

The entire affair stems from a social media post.

After a September 2018 all-candidates debate, Kristen Lechleitner disagreed on an Osgoode village Facebook group with some of Darouze's claims that he had been responsible for certain improvements to local policing.

Darouze replied on Facebook, accusing her of "spreading fears" and posting "incorrect information." He asked to meet with her and her "inside source family member" — namely, her husband, the police officer.

The next day, Darouze wrote to Charles Bordeleau, then Ottawa's chief of police, accusing Kristen Lechleitner of using "scare tactics" to upset the community, and further suggesting Bordeleau look into whether "her husband is relaying incorrect information to her to scare the public."

Bordeleau did forward Darouze's email to the appropriate inspector and staff sergeant on Oct. 4.

Reinhard Lechleitner's supervisors eventually found the officer had not only done nothing wrong, but that everything Kristin Lechleitner had written publicly on Facebook was accurate.