Nipawin Fire Chief suing local for defamation

By Aaron Schulze
August 9, 2018 - 2:00pm Updated: August 10, 2018 - 10:24am

The Town of Nipawin's Fire Chief Brian Starkell has sued a local man for alleged defamatory comments made about him online.

David Petersen was served by Starkall on February 6, 2018 for nine cited comments published in four Nipawin Facebook groups between April 16-24, on April 27 and Sept. 10, 2017, which claim Starkell intentionally destroyed the Town of Nipawin Fire Department's vehicle in order to receive a new one.

Starkell's statement of claim said the comments are false and he is seeking punitive and compensatory damage. Along with compensation, Starkell requests Petersen to refrain "publishing defamatory comments" about him online, and for Petersen and organizers of the four Facebook groups to delete any "defamatory comments" about him.

The lawsuit and comments originate from an event in July 2016, where Starkell attended fire department-related business in Regina.

According to a failure analysis report obtained by northeastNOW, Starkell travelled to Craven during his trip to Regina, where it is believed the water pump on the truck failed and leaked coolant from the engine, thus causing an engine failure.

Starkell told Ray Lamarche, the investigator hired by the Town of Nipawin, he thought he smelled antifreeze driving into Lumsden, but continued driving as the gauges appeared normal. Starkell said about a minute or two later the red indicator light flashed and the engine sputtered and failed as he pulled over to the side of the highway.

After attempts to turn the engine over, Starkell said the truck was towed to Crestview Chrysler in Regina.

Gordon Meyer, the manager of Crestview Chrysler, told Lamarche he and his serviceman tried starting it but the engine barely turned over. Meyer told Starkell the engine was “probably done” but wanted to get a proper diagnosis on it, although Starkell didn’t want anything done.

The failure analysis report said the truck was disposed for salvage at Regina Certified Auto Recycling (RCAR), where Petersen purchased it, brought it back to Nipawin, and removed the engine to dissect it.

Petersen said the truck was sold to RCAR on July 21, 2016 and told Nipawin’s Chief Administrative Officer Barry Elliott about the sale on July 28.

Elliott said he was on holidays at the time of the truck’s disposal, but confirmed to northeastNOW that he was unaware of the sale until Petersen mentioned it.

“I was informed by our Director of Finance & Administration, who was acting in my stead during my absence, that this disposal had occurred and that the process followed the Town’s normal surplus equipment disposal practice.” Elliott said. “Council was informed of this disposal at the earliest opportunity thereafter.”

Petersen said he doesn't believe Starkell's story adds up, saying he worked in an engine repair shop for 16 years, and while the water pump can fail at any time, it shouldn’t result in an engine failure to that extent.

The inspector, hired by the town, saw the truck in Petersen’s possession in September 2016 with the engine removed. The report showed an overheated engine with signs of coolant into the combustion chambers, the cylinder heads being warped and overheated, the intake manifold being melted due to heat generated from the engine, an empty upright oil filter, and an oil pump suction partially plugged with molten plastics.

The report said the vehicle was considered to be in good condition, after the town mechanic Roy Unger serviced the vehicle (a 2009 Dodge Ram 1500). The servicing included installing a new filter and adding new engine oil. Unger also checked all fluid levels checked before Starkell’s trip to Regina.

Lamarche stated in his failure analysis report that Starkell’s witness statement “does not coincide and is in contradiction with the evidence found”.

After seeing the report, Petersen said he still stands by his comments.

“I would love to answer them one at a time again and again as to why I said it and believe it, and back those comments up and provide evidence.” Petersen told northeastNOW. “I don’t think I would have any problem along the way doing that.”

Petersen's lawyer told him this case may not see a courtroom for seven years, but Petersen said he’s willing to wait.

northeastNOW reached out to Starkell for comment, but requests were not returned.

All allegations have not been proven in court. 

Editor's note: this story was amended to correct an error in the spelling of Brian Starkell's name.


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On Twitter: @SchulzePANow

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