Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming is facing a defamation lawsuit from a B.C. deputy minister after the NDP published statements that suggested the civil servant’s position and pay increase was politically motivated.
In the suit filed Aug. 15 at Vancouver civil courts, jobs, tourism and skills deputy minister Athana Mentzelopoulos claims Fleming damaged her reputation by naming her in an online petition related to the ongoing teacher’s strike.
That petition, still available Thursday on the B.C. NDP’s website, features an image with a mock credit card labelled “Christy Clark’s Friend Rewards Program,” with the name “Liberal Insider” attached. Below, Mentzelopoulos is directly named as benefitting from a $30,000 pay increase in 2013 and called Clark’s friend. The defamation claim also references an email sent to NDP supporters.
Mentzelopoulos was a bridesmaid at Clark’s wedding in the mid-1990s, something Mentzelopoulos’ lawyer said is irrelevant in her professional life.
“Athana’s been a career civil servant, she’s worked for federal government, she was recruited by the Campbell government,” said lawyer David Wotherspoon. “The fact she [Mentzelopoulos] was someone’s bridesmaid 20 years ago shouldn’t be used for political fodder.”
Wotherspoon said Mentzelopoulos requested a retraction and formal apology from Fleming, but that didn’t happen.
“She felt she had to take this step,” Wotherspoon said.
Fleming and his lawyers have three weeks to formally respond before the suit moves forward.
An NDP spokesperson said Fleming intends to defend himself vigorously, but was unable to offer further comment as the case is before the courts.