Wednesday, 22 Jan 2020

Blackridge Strategy’s Amir Farahi responds to new documents released in websites scandal

The owner of Blackridge Strategy says newly released documents connected to an ongoing scandal dating back to London’s 2018 municipal election speak for themselves, adding that he and his firm did not violate the Municipal Elections Act.

The scandal stems from a pair of websites that targeted then-incumbent city councillors Maureen Cassidy and Virginia Ridley in the 2018 election.

The website targeting Cassidy said she couldn’t be trusted, citing her high-profile affair with former mayor Matt Brown.

The website that targeted Ridley described her as a “colossal spendthrift” and “greedy.” It also accused her of child abuse for bringing her son to a lengthy budget meeting.

Documents made public on Monday suggest current Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen and former council candidate Randy Warden paid Blackridge Strategy to create the websites, according to Susan Toth, a lawyer for Cassidy and Ridley.

“I believe the documents speak for themselves,” said Blackridge Strategy owner Amir Farahi when asked about Van Meerbergen and Warden’s potential involvement in the fake websites.

Among the documents Toth released on Monday is one that appears to be an invoice from Blackridge Strategy to Van Meerbergen describing services the PR firm was hired to perform as “attack ads against Virginia Ridley” and “anonymous website.”

In an email to Global News, Van Meerbergen said he did not receive an invoice nor did he pay for a website targeting Ridley, adding that the invoice is a “complete fabrication.”

Van Meerbergen has previously denied any personal connection to the website.

Warden has not yet responded to a Global News request for comment on the documents.

“I can’t speak to invoices or any sort of client matters,” Farahi said when asked about Van Meerbergen’s potential involvement.

“I am under obligation to not disclose anything… I have to uphold my contract.”

Blackridge Strategy’s former co-owner, Jake Skinner, who left the firm on Jan. 3, told Global News last week that he had advised against the website targeting Cassidy.

When asked if Skinner had done so, Farahi said he could not comment on personnel issues or issues involving former employees.

“It’s similar to my obligation to uphold confidentiality with our clients,” Farahi said.

Blackridge Strategy remains embroiled in an OPP investigation into whether the company violated the Municipal Elections Act, something Farahi denies.

“When there was a complaint made to the compliance audit committee, the compliance audit committee also ruled that we were not in violation of the Municipal Elections Act,” Farahi said.

“Anytime there’s provincial and federal elections, it’s expected across party lines that different campaign tactics would be deployed,” Farahi said.

“The only difference is that municipally, here in London, we haven’t seen something like this that happens provincially and federally far too often.”


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