Qualicum Beach Town Councillor Teunis Westbroek denied claims of slander made by Kelland Foods Holding. The company filed a civil claim against the councillor in May because of comments regarding its store that was destroyed by fire in 2002.
A response to the claim was filed on May 21, in which Westbroek denied that Kenneth Schley and John Briuolo, who owned the Qualicum Quality Foods store which was destroyed in 2002, suffered loss, damage, injury or expense as a result of his words.
“The defendant (Westbroek) denies that he published, orally or in writing, any defamatory words of and concerning the plaintiffs (Schley and Briuolo) either as alleged, or at all, and puts the plaintiffs to the strict proof thereof,” reads the response.
In the defendant’s version of the facts, Schley and his associate David Bryan attended a lunch with Westbroek and Mayor Brian Wiese at the Qualicum Inn Restaurant in 2019 to discuss development opportunities at the bus garage location, across from the Quality Foods.
According to the response to the civil claim, Schley referenced the East Village property and stated, “we moved in there for awhile after we burned our store down.”
“The defendant was concerned by the plaintiff’s (Schley’s) statement and interpreted it to be a reference to a fire that destroyed the plaintiff’s Qualicum Foods store on or around November 11, 2002,” it reads.
During an in-camera Qualicum Beach town council meeting on Jan. 14 this year regarding proposals for the bus garage property, the issue of the 2002 fire was raised and Westbroek expressed concern about the nature of Schley’s comment, according to the response document.
He again expressed concern regarding the nature of Schley’s comment at an informal lunch meeting with Wiese and Coun. Scott Harrison at Thalassa Restaurant.
“At all times the defendant acted in good faith without malice and had an honest belief of the truth of the statements made by him,” reads the document.
Westbroek claimed in the response he only discussed his concerns to people with a duty to listen to them and he was acting in his capacity as an elected official.
He is seeking the claim against him be dismissed and opposed the relief sought by Kelland Foods.