MLA Shannon Phillips has filed a $400,000 lawsuit against several members of the Lethbridge Police Service, claiming illegal searches of police databases were an invasion of her privacy intended to cause her psychological and emotional harm.
The lawsuit, filed by Calgary lawyer Michael Bates, names three officers and one civilian employee in connection to the searches, alleging the actions amounted to a breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"Phillips has suffered and will continue to suffer loss and damages," including pain and suffering, loss of reputation, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the court filing made last week in Lethbridge.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. Statements of defence addressing the allegations had not been not filed at Lethbridge Court of King's Bench as of Monday.
It's alleged the searches of the politician's information occurred while she was the environment minister for Alberta's NDP government.
The lawsuit says the searches were conducted between Jan. 9 and Nov. 29, 2018, accessing police files from 2013, 2015 and 2016. Phillips was a witness in the file from 2013, while she was a complainant in the files from 2015 and 2016.
But, according to the court filing, Phillips became aware of what had happened only upon reading the results of a freedom of information access request in December 2020 involving the Lethbridge Police Service.
The lawsuit alleges three constables — Joel Odorski, Derek Riddell and Ross Bond — as well as a civilian member of the force, Allyson Dunsmore, "had no legitimate law enforcement purpose to search Phillips's name or access or in any way use her private information in this manner."
In addition, the lawsuit alleges the four made use of that knowledge in one or more of the following ways:
Disclosing the substance of the information to third parties unknown to Phillips, some of whom were known to be opponents of Phillips and her duties as a sitting MLA and as environment minister.
Using the information to "conduct partial or biased policing, or to permit other LPS members" to do the same in relation to Phillips.
Other "unlawful use or disclosure" of the private information of Phillips "as is known only to one or more of the defendants."
The lawsuit also names Robert Davis, who was Lethbridge's police chief at the time, claiming he knew or ought to have known that "Phillips was a particular target for police misconduct due to her public office as an elected MLA and Environment Minister."
"There was a known vocal partisan political opposition by LPS officers toward the policies of the government to which Phillips belonged, including but not limited to environmental protection policies," the lawsuit reads.
It also names a John and Jane Doe as having participated in some or all of the conduct, though it adds the particulars of their alleged misconduct is only known to one or more of the defendants.
The lawsuit alleges the two were LPS officers or civilian employees.
The current head of the police service, Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh, is also named as a defendant as a representative of the Lethbridge Police Service. He became chief in July 2020.
The lawsuit seeks general damages of $300,000 and aggravated damages of $50,000. It also seeks another $50,000 for breaching Phillips's charter rights.