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2011-07-20 at NOON

Mayor makes public apology, likely puts end to $700,000 suit

By Jamie Smith,
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A $700,000 lawsuit between the mayor and the former chief of police is now over.

Mayor Keith Hobbs apologized at city hall Wednesday for allegations he made that former police Chief Bob Herman had illegally intercepted his private communications.

Reading from a prepared statement, Hobbs said Herman had accessed text messages between himself and a suspended police officer from a Thunder Bay Police Service issued Blackberry. The former police chief acted lawfully while doing this, the mayor added.  

"I apologize for my mistake in misrepresenting that Chief Herman intercepted my private communications," Hobbs said." I apologize for, and sincerely regret, any hardship my comments have caused chief Herman and his family."

Herman, who was waiting outside of city hall to speak with media after Hobbs’ statement, said all he ever wanted was an apology and considers the slander suit he filed against Hobbs over.

"It’s unfortunate it took three months for this to happen," Herman said. "I accept this apology."

The past few months haven’t been pleasant, the former police chief said. But it’s better for the police service and the community that the matter is settled.

Herman initially filed a libel notice in April after Hobbs made comments to local media, stating that the chief had intercepted his private communications illegally.

In a statement of claim filed last month, Herman asked for $500,000 for libel and slander and another $200,000 in punitive damages.

Hobbs stepped down from the Thunder Bay Police Services board in March over allegations of breach of confidentiality on a closed-session matter.

Hobbs had claimed that an investigation by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission into those allegations forced him off the police board.

In a media release shortly after Hobbs’ statements in March, Herman had said he would take action, but at the time he declined to specify what he meant.

"I am taking the appropriate action necessary to ensure my integrity and the integrity of the office of the chief of police," Herman was quoted as saying in a Thunder Bay Police Service-issued news release.

While police union president, before running a successful mayoral campaign mostly on crime issues, Hobbs repeatedly called out the police board and administration for not addressing the city’s violent crime rate.  

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