Thursday, October 19, 2006

Montague Township 9 - The UnDead Lawsuit

I've had a comment or two on a post from a long time ago about the Montague defamation lawsuit.

Commenter 'Anonymous' writes:
Sir, you yourself wrote about the first All Candidates Meeting of Montague Township and therefore should know that although the township "wasted" $50,000 in a lawsuit, that money is a mere fraction of what taxpayers would be forking out if the fire department did not do fundraising to earn money for their own causes (equipment, vehicles, etc.) I think that if the matter had have been dropped when Mr. Page was given the answers he requested the lawsuit would not have had to happen.

Now, as I commented at the time of that meeting, the fundraising activities of the Fire Department are completely seperate from the activities of council in relation to the lawsuit. I hope that Anonymous is not implying that the Fire Department is only interested in fundraising while Council follows a political agenda that suits the Fire Department; that would be inappropriate.

Council is council and runs the township. The Fire Department is the Fire Department and fights fires. I think some people are getting confused about this distinction.

The Page suit happened to be about firefighting. It could equally well have been about snowplowing, sewage, policing, streetlighting or any other service. What it was about is actually irrelevant to the issues of free speech, the constitution and good government that the lawsuit raised. Council chose a risky, rash, I would say reckless, course of action in launching the suit and they lost our money.

None of which is to suggest that Mr. Page was in the right or that he behaved appropriately. Most of us will never know the full ins and outs of the matter. However, one thing I think many of us noticed at the all candidates meeting is that people eventually get tired of even the most persistent complainers; when they are left alone, disputes such as this die much quicker.

I personally believe council should have followed the legal processes laid out for them in terms of the Riceville incident and then steadfastly refused to be drawn into any other process or discussion. If council, having done all they could do, had then ignored the matter, I doubt we'd even be talking about it today. It would have died a natural death. It would have been perhaps a more difficult short term course of action but it would have led to a much better long term outcome for all of us - even for the Fire Department, I think. As it is, it can't be pleasant to read about 'drunken nights of Coors and rye' in a national news magazine. That didn't need to happen.