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Judge throws out wrongful dismissal case against Barrie chamber of commerce

'It’s a relief to those that are continuing on the board this year and those that are brand new directors to know that a major thing is behind us,' says outgoing president
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After a four-week trial earlier this summer, the Greater Barrie Chamber of Commerce has successfully challenged a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

The court’s recent decision validates the chamber’s decision to terminate the employment of its executive director in 2014, according to its outgoing president, Todd Tuckey.

“We are happy it is now behind us,” said Tuckey, who joined the board in 2014, just months before the decision was made to dismiss its executive director at the time.

Tuckey said the decision to continue to defend the action was regularly reviewed and supported by successive boards annually as new members joined and older ones left over the course of the past seven years, because it felt it had done nothing wrong.

Tuckey himself stepped in as interim executive director for a year with no compensation at one period as the board searched for a new executive director.

In the decision, Justice Cary Boswell determined Sybil Goruk is owed no damages in lieu of notice, nor is she owed aggravated or punitive damages.

“A combination of misfeasance and bad judgment created a situation where the board could no longer trust her,” Boswell wrote in his judgement, dated July 19. “Trust was an integral part of her position. The loss of trust, arising from her misconduct, undermined the fundamental terms of the employment relationship. Termination was an unfortunate but proportionate response.”

Goruk and her lawyers did not respond to BarrieToday for requests for comment.

In defending the $375,000 action, Tuckey said the board’s trust with the chamber head had been broken and was irreparable, leading to the executive director’s dismissal.

What remains is the issue of costs incurred by both sides as a result of the legal action.

Boswell encouraged the two sides to come up with a plan, otherwise they are to make submissions before the end of August for the court to decide on costs.

The lawsuit leading to the trial would have been a costly venture, particularly during the trial. Tuckey said liability insurance did cover the defence costs of the board of directors. And the insurers opted to defend the action in court instead of settling the case.

“The chamber board had agreed, again unanimously, to carry on, because of the facts that were presented to the board that what we had done was correct and why should the chamber pay out,” he said. “It’s a relief to those that are continuing on the board this year and those that are brand new directors to know that a major thing is behind us.

“There are no pending lawsuits; the chamber is in good shape. We ended up in the black in this last year even though we went through COVID and we lost a lot of our events," Tuckey added. 

For the chamber, the decision puts an end to the lengthy litigation and relief that it doesn’t have to incur a large payout just as a new board takes the helm.

Tuckey now ends his term as president and is being replaced by Marni Heather.

About the Author: Marg. Bruineman

Marg. Bruineman is an award-winning journalist who focuses on justice issues and human interest stories
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