Defamation lawsuit filed by TRU VP against accusers in high-profile misconduct probe

TRU VP sues eight accusers

A Thompson Rivers University vice president who was cleared last month following a year-long investigation into high-profile allegations of serious misconduct has filed a lawsuit against a number of his accusers and others who advocated on their behalf.

Matt Milovick, TRU’s vice-president of finance and administration, is alleging malicious defamation on the part of eight named individuals — seven former high-ranking TRU employees and one current law professor.

Defendants are Lucille Gnanasihamany, TRU’s former associate vice-president of marketing and communications, Jim Gudjonson, TRU’s former environment and sustainability director, Stacey Jyrkkanen, TRU’s former community safety manager, Amanda Ellison, TRU’s former associate director of human resources, Meagan Hagerty, TRU’s former sexualized violence prevention and response manager, Deanne Brkovich, a human resources consultant formerly contracted by TRU, Laura Cooke, TRU’s former organizational engagement and learning manager, and Charis Kamphuis, a TRU law professor.

(TRU has identified the complainants in the investigation only as seven former employees and one current employee. Milovick was made aware of the complainants' identities during the course of the investigation.)

Also listed as defendants are unnamed whistleblowers and complainants.

Milovick and former TRU human resources boss Larry Phillips were named by whistleblowers, first in an anonymous letter shared within the TRU community and later publicly, when news of the allegations broke late in 2021.

The letter and subsequent news stories detailed a number of serious allegations. Milovick specifically was accused of discrimination, workplace harassment and racial intolerance.

Following a lengthy investigation — a probe that cost TRU more than $1 million — no wrongdoing was substantiated on the part of Milovick. He was facing 22 allegations.

(Ten allegations made against Phillips were substantiated. He was fired by TRU President Brett Fairbairn late in 2021, though Fairbairn claims it had nothing to do with the allegations.)

In his notice of civil claim, which was filed Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Milovick says he takes no issue with the complaint itself or the investigation into the allegations. His problem is that the accusers and their advocates opted to make the allegations public.

The document describes a “campaign of vilification” and accuses the defendants of “under-handed, secretive, reprehensible, insulting, high-handed, spiteful, malicious and oppressive conduct.”

“The defamatory expression complained of in this notice of civil claim is calculated to expose the plaintiff to hatred, ridicule and/or contempt, and/or to lower him in the estimation of right-thinking people generally, and/or to cause him to be shunned or avoided, all of which has occurred,” the document reads.

Milovick claims to have suffered substantial damage to his reputation, “injury to pride and self-confidence,” emotional distress, damaged professional relationships and anxiety as a result of the actions of the defendants.

While no dollar amount is set out, he is seeking general, aggravated, exemplary, punitive and special damages, as well as an injunction barring the defendants from “further publication of the defamatory expression.”

Once the defendants have been served, they will have 21 days to file a response.

None of the allegations in the claim have been proven in court.

More Kamloops News