The mayor of Qualicum Beach has issued an apology and will pay $130,000 to two businessmen after making defamatory statements alleging the pair burned down their own store.
In a public apology printed in the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, Teunis Westbroek writes that in late 2020 and early 2021, he said on multiple occasions speaking to members of council and to senior staff at the town, he said that Ken Schley and John Briuolo “burnt down their grocery store” in 2002.
According to the History of Quality Foods page on the grocery store’s website, Qualicum Foods — which was the first Quality Foods location in 1982 — was destroyed by a fire.
Kelland Foods Holdings, which is the name of the business Schley and Briuolo own with Noel Hayward, filed a civil claim against Westbroek in May 2021 for the comments, according to Oceanside News.
“I retract these statements and publicly acknowledge that neither Mr. Schley nor Mr. Briuolo played any role in causing the fire,” Westbroek wrote in his public apology in the PQB News. “It was wrong of me to have made statements to this effect, and I am remorseful for my actions.”
In the apology, Westbroek noted he had multiple opportunities to make an apology for his statements but did not do so until cross-examined by the men’s lawyer on Oct. 18. 2022. It also notes that he has not made the apology public, until the Feb. 8 edition of the PQB News.
“I sincerely apologize to both Mr. Schley and Mr. Briuolo, both of whom I acknowledge to be successful businessmen and pillars of the community, for the very significant damage my defamatory statements have caused to their otherwise impeccable and well-deserved reputation for honesty and integrity,” Westbroek’s apology says.
The apology says Schley and Briuolo have chosen to not go ahead with the civil action in exchange for a payment of $100,000 for damages, $30,000 in reimbursement of legal fees and expenses, and the public apology.
Schley and Briuolo owned Quality Foods until 2017, when it was sold to the Jim Pattison Group.
Westbroek was also recently censured by the town for asking to destroy records when he was a councillor.
In a statement dated Sept. 9 and posted online, the Town of Qualicum Beach said the reason Westbroek was censured was that he asked staff to “destroy records, specifically records associated with a previous finding against him, which determined that he had violated” their bullying and harassment policy.
-With files from CHEK’s Nicholas Pescod