Former Placentia top bureaucrat sues for defamation, town denies it

·2 min read
Charlotte Hickey, former chief administrative officer of the Town of Placentia, is suing the town for defamation.  (Submitted by Vanessa Mooney - image credit)
Charlotte Hickey, former chief administrative officer of the Town of Placentia, is suing the town for defamation. (Submitted by Vanessa Mooney - image credit)
Charlotte Hickey, former chief administrative officer of the Town of Placentia, is suing the town for defamation.
Charlotte Hickey, former chief administrative officer of the Town of Placentia, is suing the town for defamation. (Submitted by Vanessa Mooney)

A former top bureaucrat in Placentia, N.L., is suing the town for defamation and nearly $70,000 in damages and fees. But the town denies it defamed Charlotte Hickey, their former chief administrative officer, and says they've apologized.

In a statement of claim filed in Newfoundland and Labrador's Supreme Court in late 2018, Hickey says she resigned from her job in the middle of August on "terms mutually agreed between her and council."

However, in a public council meeting on Sept. 4, 2018, Hickey says, Mayor Bernard Power announced she had been "terminated," which she alleges is a breach of contract because she and the town had signed a non-disclosure agreement.

She says the town intended to humiliate and embarrass her and says that constitutes defamation. She claims the town and mayor are liable for inflicting mental suffering upon her.

Town responds, offers to clarify

The town's statement of defence argues it meant to convey that Hickey's departure was mutually agreeable. The statement says the town had no intention to humiliate or embarrass Hickey, and didn't breach their contract.

The statement claims the town's executive assistant, Debbie Gear, emailed Hickey and took the blame for using the word "terminated" when she composed a note for the mayor "after being told the proper wording."

"I typed it just before the start of the meeting and I gave it to the mayor while the meeting was in progress which means he could not proof it before reading it.… This was entirely, totally and unconditionally my fault. I meant no harm and if it causes any issue, I sincerely apologize," reads part of the statement quoting Gear.

The town also claims the word "termination" is found in the body of the contract which Hickey "executed herself" and her lawyer approved, and they say no issue was raised with the word then.

In the town's statement of defence, Placentia Mayor Bernie Power and the town say they had no intention of humiliating or embarrassing Hickey.
In the town's statement of defence, Placentia Mayor Bernie Power and the town say they had no intention of humiliating or embarrassing Hickey. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

The statement says the town offered to clarify the record to say "Ms. Hickey was not discharged by council but resigned of her own volition."

But they say Hickey didn't accept that and the lawsuit was filed. The town's defence says Hickey is seeking $66,000 in damages and $3,000 for legal fees for the breach of contact.

None of the claims have been proven in court. The matter was scheduled for a settlement conference at Supreme Court last month. The town did not reply to messages from CBC News inquiring about the current status of the lawsuit. Hickey's lawyer said he doesn't expect the case to come to trial for some time.

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