VERNON - Art Gourley just won't shut up.
The 74-year-old Vernon man is well known at City Hall for voicing complaints — at times, right in the middle of council meetings — and now the City is using legal means to try to stop what it calls his "unreasonable" behaviour.
In June, the City filed a notice of claim against Gourley — a local painter who ran for council in 2014 — alleging he harassed and verbally abused city staff and councillors.
The City states that Gourley has made persistent and unreasonable demands of staff and council, used abusive, insulting and offensive language, phoned a city councillor at home to make abusive statements, regularly delivered letters to City Hall containing offensive statements and not stopped his conduct at City Hall when asked to do so. The City alleges Gourley’s conduct is unreasonable and interferes with the functioning of City Hall.
In the claim, the City seeks an injunction stopping Gourley from visiting City Hall without an appointment and prohibiting him from harassing, annoying or communicating with city councillors and staff.
Gourley frequently attends public city council meetings and on at least several occasions that iNFOnews.ca is directly aware of, has been asked by Mayor Akbal Mund to cease disruptive behaviour.
Mund and the City’s communications officer both declined to comment, citing legal reasons. The City’s lawyer was not immediately available either.
Gourley, reached by phone, says he was surprised the City decided to pursue the dispute legally.
“As far as I’m concerned, they’re just wasting taxpayers’ money. That’s all they ever do. Who’s paying for the lawyer?” he says.
When asked about the specific allegations, Gourley admitted he is critical of City Hall.
“I think I have a right to say what I want to say. When I speak up like this, people get upset,” he says.
Regarding the phone call to a city councillor, Gourley says he called her to tell her she wouldn’t get re-elected.
“That’s not against the law, is it?” he says.
He also says the legal action came after a specific incident where he “said someone was gaining weight.”
According to Gourley, he was given an opportunity to sign a letter apologizing for the conduct and the case would “go away”. He says he did just that and as a result, the legal action was cancelled. He says nothing he signed restricts him from attending city council meetings.
Asked if he thinks this is the end of the dispute, Gourley says “if I keep quiet, of course.”
The 74-year-old says he would like to run for mayor next year with a slate of like-minded individuals for council. He received 768 votes in 2014.
“I’m like Trump, I’ve got lots of life,” he says.
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