June 23, 2024

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Former Mississippi Mills mayoral candidate Steve Maynard has been declared a vexatious litigant after a judge effectively tossed his numerous cases and appeals from court and ordered that Maynard seek a judge’s permission before filing any further lawsuits against the township.

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The ruling represents another legal victory for the municipality which sought, and was granted, a similar court order earlier this year in an unrelated case involving resident and prospective land developer Bryant Cougle.

“This has been a long, exasperating, and expensive road for the municipality and our residents,” said Mississippi Mills mayor Christa Lowry in a statement following the ruling in Maynard’s case. “Due judicial process and access to information are fundamental to the democratic process. This individual, who sees himself as ‘something of a gatekeeper’ regarding planning decisions, has abused these processes.”

In a long-awaited ruling released on Tuesday, Superior Court Justice Jaye Hooper was granted the application to declare Maynard vexatious, which was filed by Mississippi Mills solicitors in 2021.

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The ruling cites 23 separate court proceedings that Maynard has pursued against the municipality, including eight new complaints that were lodged during the period the vexatious litigant case was being heard.

Maynard admitted to the judge he had “lost track” of the number of his active lawsuits, tribunal injunctions and appeals.

All of those cases — with the exception of a “slip and fall” lawsuit still making its way through the Small Claims Court — will be stayed, according to the judicial order.

Maynard will be required to obtain permission from the court prior to bringing any further lawsuit against the municipality, its employees or agents.

“This ongoing litigation has been a burden to the Council, to staff and especially to the taxpayers of Mississippi Mills,” Lowry said in an email this week, citing key passages of the judge’s decision.

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“The courts have found his objections in past cases to be ‘bald assertions, without any substance and in the end, without any foundation.’ The Ontario Land Tribunal concluded that his intentions were ‘more than just meddlesome; it is to cause as much trouble and/or annoyance to the Town as possible.’”

Hooper’s order applies only to cases naming the municipality as the respondent, and does not apply to several other lawsuits Maynard has launched against other township residents.

The judge, however, ordered Maynard to attach the vexatious litigant ruling to any other legal proceedings he might pursue in future.

The decision also states that the municipality is entitled to legal costs once those bills have been finalized.

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“With this now behind us, we are keen to focus on positive and productive work that benefits our community,” Lowry said.

Maynard did not deny he’s initiated numerous legal proceedings, but he “does deny that they have been vexatious,” the judge noted. “He believes he is acting as a responsible citizen in an effort to keep the municipality in compliance with their obligation to comply with the Mississippi Mills’ official plan and the provincial policy statement.”

In an email, Maynard said he plans to appeal the decision.

Maynard noted the ruling does not prevent him from pursuing his matter in small claims court or his ongoing libel lawsuit against a fellow Almonte resident.

“Subject to legal advice, I intend to appeal Justice Hooper’s order,” Maynard said Thursday. “One advantage to being declared a vexatious litigant is that I must seek leave from a judge of the Superior Court of Justice… Essentially, a judge will review my material to determine if ‘the proceeding sought to be instituted or continued is not an abuse of process and that there are reasonable grounds for the proceeding.’

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“If the judge provides an order that I may proceed, he or she is stating that the matter is not vexatious,” Maynard said.

The long-running legal feud has roots in a 2016 attempt to sell off a municipal portion of Almonte parkland named after Maynard’s late father, Don Maynard, a beloved high school teacher.

“From this time forward, Mr. Maynard began to see himself as somewhat of a gatekeeper with respect to the Mississippi Mills’ planning decisions,” Hooper wrote.

Maynard “established a pattern” of litigation, the judge said, and his numerous appeals “tied up planning decisions for years.”

The judge tallied 23 of Maynard’s tribunal proceedings, appeals, motions and court applications that directly involved the municipality, its employees or its legal counsel.

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Each of those proceedings required a legal defense at the taxpayers’ expense, the municipality stated.

“Not only has the municipality incurred significant legal fees, but development projects have also been delayed for extended periods of time,” wrote Hooper. “Mr. Maynard realized that he had no idea how many of his cases against the municipality were still pending. He has lost track.

The judge identified a pattern in Maynard’s litigation that typically commences with a complaint before the Ontario Land Tribunal.

“Many of those proceedings were dismissed for the failure to file any evidence. Others were dismissed for failing to pay the filing fee,” the judge wrote. “Mr. Maynard then appeals the (tribunal) dismissal to the Divisional Court. Simultaneously, he will commence applications at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice seeking similar relief to what was sought and dismissed before the (tribunal). A dismissal in one application or appeal does not appear to affect Mr. Maynard’s determination to bring another.”

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Hooper wrote that Maynard appeared to lack “insight into the impact of the litigation he has commenced or the difficulties this has placed on Mississippi Mills.”

The judge also lamented the strain placed on court resources.

“The judicial system is a community property and a scarce resource, just like health and educational services,” wrote Hooper.

“The courts have finite resources that cannot be squandered. Every moment devoted to a vexatious litigant is a moment unavailable to a deserving litigant. The unrestricted access to courts by those who abuse it affects the access of others who need and deserve it.”

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