In an escalating legal row, former VANOC head John Furlong on Tuesday described fresh allegations from writer Laura Robinson as “completely unfounded” and said that he would fight the claims in court.
In a statement, Vancouver communications firm TwentyTen Group said Mr. Furlong would be making “a full and complete response” to all of Ms. Robinson’s allegations in court. His lawyers are expected to file a formal response to Ms. Robinson’s latest filing in coming days.
Mr. Furlong filed a defamation lawsuit against Ms. Robinson last November in relation to a story she wrote for the Georgia Straight that alleged Mr. Furlong physically and verbally abused native students while he was a teacher in Burns Lake, B.C.
On Monday, Ms. Robinson filed a response that maintained her September story was not defamatory and that included new allegations related to Mr. Furlong’s past. Those allegations included claims that Mr. Furlong had physically and verbally abused his first wife and another woman, described in the court document as his common-law wife.
Ms. Robinson’s response, filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, also included names of students and details of alleged abuse that were not included in her September story. That story focused on a period in Mr. Furlong’s life – when he came to B.C. as a volunteer for Catholic schools – that had not previously been widely known and has now come under intense scrutiny.
Mr. Furlong has not spoken publicly about the fresh claims in Ms. Robinson’s response. After the story came out last fall, he strenuously denied any wrongdoing.
“While John is confident he will ultimately be vindicated by the court, his primary concern right now is the irreparable harm being caused to his family by this unfounded attack on his character and reputation,” the TwentyTen Group said.
“We know we speak on behalf of his many friends and colleagues who came to know him well while organizing the 2010 Winter Games, when we say that we are completely supportive of him.”
The court documents also contain conflicting claims about events that preceded the story being published last year. Mr. Furlong’s suit alleges that Ms. Robinson filed a report with the RCMP “making untrue allegations of further abuse by the Plaintiff of a former student.”
Ms. Robinson’s response says that allegation is untrue and calls it “vexatious.”
Mr. Furlong, 62, headed Vancouver’s successful bid to stage the 2010 Winter Olympics. But he was considered a long shot to take on the more onerous duties of guiding VANOC all the way to the Olympics, given a working history that included stints at recreation commissions in Prince George and Nanaimo, and as the CEO of the private Arbutus Club in Vancouver.
Since the Olympics, Mr. Furlong has been in demand as a guest speaker. Last year, he was hired by the Vancouver Whitecaps as the soccer team’s executive chairman. He also co-authored a review on the Stanley Cup riots of 2011 with Douglas Keefe from Nova Scotia.
Mr. Furlong’s lawsuit also names the publisher and editor of the Georgia Straight and Vancouver Free Press Publishing Corp., which publishes the newspaper, as defendants.