Rob Cote, the leader of the Car Tax Revolt, is suing Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson for slander and libel over a letter published Aug. 16 in the Warwick Beacon claiming that “an aggressive driver displaying a Car Tax Rally sign in the back of his open truck badgered and tailgated my son as he was driving home from work.” The letter also claimed that she received insulting e-mails disclosing personal information about her colleagues as well as crank calls.
Vella-Wilkinson said that while she is countersuing him, she did not disclose the details. Her lawyer, Alberto Aponte Cardona, was contacted but did not return a call in time for press.
“I think that she’s damaged me,” said Cote in an interview Friday. “I’m building my reputation in the community, and how do I know that what she said couldn’t injure my work, lifestyle and so forth? You can’t make claims like that in an effort to strong-arm people or fear them into not speaking against the government. That’s what this was all about.”
The lawsuit was filed against Vella-Wilkinson on Sept. 5. He and his lawyer, whose name he did not want to reveal, compiled a list of demands, which Cote said were not met by Vella-Wilkinson and Aponte Cardona. Because they failed to comply with his demands, they were scheduled to meet Cote and his attorney in court yesterday morning on a motion to compel Vella-Wilkinson to provide him the information in a timely fashion.
Further, Cote is asking to be awarded $750, as he isn’t pleased he has to take a day out of work for court. He also requests that Aponte Cardona be sanctioned for his lack of response.
Moreover, Cote said he believes she “maliciously” circulated e-mails and wrote the letter to the editor because she was upset that he advertised the Car Tax Revolt, a 280-member group that vetoed “unethical” valuations to vehicles, which he spearheaded in July.
“I have the constitutional right to take a stand against the government, which I did,” Cote said. “Because of that, I was targeted. People are afraid to be outspoken because they are afraid of a reprisal, and this is an example why. I’m not going to back down.”
He feels Vella-Wilkinson’s attempts to harm his reputation were “underhanded” and “despicable.”
“The burden is on her to prove her claims are factual,” said Cote. “I can prove they aren’t.”