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Ruffolo couple files defence statement in $395K lawsuit

City’s legal action called high-handed in pair’s court documents

Gino and Mary Ruffolo have filed their statement of defence in the $395,000 lawsuit commenced by the City of Vaughan on Nov. 20.

The Ruffolos’ 16-page statement, filed last week, refutes the allegations levelled against them and characterizes the legal action as “high-handed” and “malicious”.

In its statement of claim, the city alleged “persistent, repeated, intentional and malicious” behaviour by the couple, dating back to Sept. 25, 2006, breaching the terms of a 2006 settlement agreement.

During negotiations of the settlement, the city’s claim states it was “understood” the Ruffolos would no longer engage in behaviour the city viewed as harassing.

“They attempted to have us sign another agreement,” Gino Ruffolo said this week. “We didn’t. That’s why I don’t understand what their ‘understanding’ is.

“There was no such understanding.”

Glenn Christie, the city’s legal counsel, had little to say this week about the Ruffolos statement of defence, saying simply that it is a “normal step in the process”.

In what is perhaps a surprising move, the Ruffolos have told the court that they plan to act as their own legal counsel, opting to do without the services of Eric Gillespie, their solicitor of record to this point.

“We still have a relationship (with Gillespie) in a couple of other matters,” Ruffolo said, referring to a conflict of interest case against Mayor Linda Jackson and an appeal requesting an audit into Jackson’s 2006 campaign finances.

“But regarding this particular litigation … this could probably wind up going on a long time,” he added. “We’re not prepared to spend $60-, $70-, $80-, $100,000 on legal fees.”

The original settlement between the city and the Ruffolos, reached on June 22, 2006, followed a year of negotiations to conclude a wrongful dismissal suit brought by Mary Ruffolo, a former city employee.

She was awarded $160,000 in return for her withdrawing all outstanding complaints against the city and its staff stemming from her wrongful dismissal claim. The city insisted Gino Ruffolo be included in the terms of the settlement.

It’s the city’s inclusion of his wife in its current lawsuit that is most troubling to the pair, Gino Ruffolo said.

“When I look at the statement of claim, when we first saw it, I could see their allegations against me,” he said, adding carefully that he was conceding nothing. “But when they added Mary to it … to me it just seems that it’s wrong. It’s maliciously done for some other reason.”

The Ruffolos are asking the court dismiss the city’s lawsuit as frivolous and are seeking to recoup their costs.

“We will continue with this and defend ourselves until our name is cleared,” Ruffolo said.

“I believe that there has been some damage done on that front.”

Vaughan Today
Online: January 27, 2008 [link]