Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz is suing the parent company of the Uniter, the official student newspaper of the University of Winnipeg, over an article that came out in late 2013 that he has claimed is libelous.
The article, published Dec. 4 and written by a volunteer, is entitled “The local political blunder,” and was featured as part of the Uniter’s annual roundup of Winnipeg culture.
Only a few hundred words in length, the title of the piece refers to a supposed connection between Katz, former Winnipeg chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl, and what has come to be known as the “fire hall scandal.”
Containing a Bible passage and a comparison to Martha Stewart, as well as a fabricated quote from a hypothetical conversation between Katz and Sheegl, the article insinuates that Katz is a criminal, involved in insider trading, and evil.
So far, the Uniter has remained quiet about the lawsuit, and has not issued a retraction. Furthermore, the article remained online after it was discovered that Katz intended to take legal action. It was only recently removed from the Uniter’s website. In its place, a notice now reads, “because this matter is presently before the Courts, this article is temporarily unavailable.”
Katz has said that he is not expecting the newspaper or the volunteer contributor to pay financial penalties. The statement of claim filed by the mayor does not name the amount he is seeking in damages.
“All we’re looking for is basically a retraction and an apology. End of story,” he said in a recent press conference.
In addition to the Uniter’s parent company, Mouseland Press, other defendants named in the suit include the volunteer who wrote the article and the University of Winnipeg.
The U of W has distanced itself from the Uniter, claiming in a press release that it has no control over what the paper publishes.
“The inclusion of the University of Winnipeg is erroneous as the university exercises no control whatsoever over the Uniter’s actions, editorial content, reporters, or editorial board,” read the statement.
“The university has neither administrative control over Mouseland Press nor representation on its Board of Directors.”
Meanwhile, an adversarial message to Katz recently appeared on the side of a building downtown.
The words “Sue me, Sam Katz” and a less-than-flattering portrait of the mayor, which originally ran alongside the Uniter article, was projected onto the side of a building on the corner of McDermot Avenue and Albert Street last Friday night. Winnipeg-based company PO-MO Inc. designed the image.
As of press time, neither the author of the article nor the Uniter has stepped forward to publish an apology to Katz, who some speculate may be seeking re-election this October.