RSU execs, staff on the hook for $70K

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By Carys Mills

Former employees plan to battle key Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) players in court for a total of $70,000 in damages following allegations of mistreatment.

Three former RSU community service group employees filed seven claims in total of libel, slander, defamation and vilification in November 2009.

The lawsuits are against Toby Whitfield, current vice-president finance and services, last year’s vice-president education Rebecca Rose and executive director of communications and outreach Denise Hammond.

They involve a Facebook message sent by Hammond, a memo and letter sent by Whitfield and a Facebook message from Rose.

“You can only push a person around so much before they start pushing back,” said former RyeAccess employee Frank Nyitray, who filed two claims. “We’re pushing back, they’re not used to that.”

“The situation and work environment became toxic, hostile, filled with harassment, discrimination, bullying tactics and intimidation,” reads Nyitray claim filed against Whitfield.

Jesse Trautmann, RyePride’s former outreach coordinator, has actions filed against Whitfield, Rose and Hammond personally and in their positions at the RSU.

A letter from seven community service group employees to Hammond was supplied as evidence supporting Trautmann’s claim against Hammond. In it the employees disputed allegations of stealing the RSU credit card, being involved in fraudulent actions and conspiring against management.

In his claim, Trautmann wrote he believes a Facebook message mentioning the allegations was a “clear, malicious attack” on him and the other people named.

“We’ve asked for the maximum amount, so $10,000 for each lawsuit,” said Trautmann. But on Jan. 1 the maximum claim allowed in Toronto Small Claims Court was raised to $25,000 and Trautmann has asked for the new limit to be considered for the claims he filed.

All claims are being disputed, according to court documents obtained by The Eyeopener.

The group of former employees will represent themselves but Whitfield, Rose and Hammond will have legal defence covered by RSU insurance.

If money is awarded, it’s unclear where it will come from.

“Because this is still in proceedings it’s hard to comment on those sort of things,” Whitfield said.

Rose refused to comment and Hammond did not return calls.

According to Nyitray, student center general manager Eric Newstadt allegedly assaulted him while he attempted to serve Hammond with court documents on Dec. 2, 2009.

Nyitray said Newstadt will be appearing in court on Thursday regarding a peace bond.

Newstadt disagrees and denies the allegation.

An “Eric Neustead” received a summons to appear in court on Jan. 14. The document was filed by Nyitray.

The lawsuits follow an ongoing Ministry of Labour Employment Standards Act investigation involving the RSU.

None of these allegations have been proven in court.

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