Calgary’s mayor has been sued for defamation over allegedly calling a Calgary businessman a gangster five years ago.
Mike Terrigno alleges that in 2015, Mayor Naheed Nenshi told another member of council and “many other people whose identities are not known to [Terrigno]” to “stay away from the Terrigno family because Coun. Druh Farrell told me [Nenshi] that the Terrignos are mafia, are involved in organized crime and belong to the mob,” according to the statement of claim filed Monday.
The mayor also allegedly told the unnamed councillor that, “Your friend Mike is a gangster and you should stay away from him.”
The statement of claim says the unnamed councillor gave information as part of their testimony in another court proceeding in December 2019, at which point Terrigno learned of the mayor’s alleged comments.
The claims have yet to be proven in court, and as of Tuesday, Nenshi said he had yet to be served with the lawsuit and therefore can’t comment on its specifics.
Terrigno, a real estate developer in Calgary, argues the alleged comments are false and were made for the purpose of destroying his reputation and exposing him to “hatred, ridicule and contempt.”
The statement of claim states that he’s suffered “severe emotional distress, social damage and injury to professional and personal relationship,” and he’s seeking $190,000 in damages.
Nenshi said while he has yet to be served, he’s no stranger to these types of claims.
“This happens all the time, it’s usually pretty frivolous,” the mayor said. “It sounds like it’s way out of the time frame and we will as always defend ourselves vigorously.”
Nenshi also stated his frustrations with strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP), lawsuits intended to intimidate or exhaust opponents with a costly legal battle in order to silence them.
“Frankly, the province needs to follow other jurisdictions and institute some anti-SLAPP legislation to stop these distractions and wastes of money,” he said.
Previous defamation suit
In 2015, Nenshi reached an out-of-court settlement with Shane Homes founder Cal Wenzel over a defamation suit.
That settlement saw the mayor retract and apologize for comparing the builder to a character in the movie The Godfather, after a video surfaced of Wenzel outlining a plan to defeat members of city council who were seen as being anti-developer in the 2013 municipal election.
That defamation case ran up a legal bill of nearly $300,000, which volunteers for Nenshi had to fundraise in order to repay the city.