Marco Gasparinetti (Terre e Acqua) has been sued: “They want to silence us”. The suit claims damages of 150,000 Euro. The Group’s report had pointed out the “direct line” between the private transportation company, which has been given some of ACTV’s lines, and Mayor Brugnaro, among sponsorships and business
By Eugenio Pendolini
7 May 2022
VENEZIA. What was supposed to have been a satirical game, with a deck of cards from A to Z, depicting Mayor Brugnaro’s possible “confusion of interests” has ended up with papers being served. In fact, it’s the first letter of the deck, A for Alilaguna, that has been cited in a lawsuit in civil (not criminal) court, requesting compensation for damages of 150,000 Euro for defamation from opposition councilor Marco Gasparinetti (Terra e Acqua) in his role as the editor responsible for the blog “gruppo25aprile.org”.
The target of Alilaguna and its president Fabio Sacco – who, contacted yesterday, declined to comment on the story – is an article dated 18 October 2021, when a dossier created by the opposition group was presented with the title “Scarseando a Venezia” (“Pocketing money in Venice”), a clear reference to statements made by Mayor Brugnaro himself immediately after the election, in September 2020, when he attacked the residents in the historic center for “mangier e scarseare” (that is, “eating and pocketing the money”) thanks to tourism.
The complaint, explains Gasparinetti, refers more specifically to the synthesis contained in one of the cards of this imaginary game in which the text under the heading “A for Alilaguna” reads: “Sponsor of Reyer (owned by the Mayor), business conventions at Misericordia (managed by a company owned by the Mayor), seasonal workers hired through Umana (the fulcrum of the Mayor’s economic empire), result: direct concessions for local public transportation, elimination of the fees for the piers used by taxis and tour boats, the expansion of the Alilaguna empire”.
“We challenged the link between money that enters the Mayor’s coffers through the blind trust and the direct concessions obtained by Alilaguna”, Gasparinetti explained during a press conference held in the offices of Italia Nostra in campiello Riccardo Salvatico.
The opposition councilor spoke directly of a “spurious suit”: “The objective is not the 150 thousand Euro, but that we be good and remain silent”, attacked the councilor in his role as activist and editor of the blog. “We are here to defend a cardinal principle of democracy, which is that of exercising the right of criticism, all the more so in Venice, whose history is a testimony to a functioning system of weights and counterweights”.
“The citation reports the percentage of seasonal workers hired with Umana, 8% of the total including temporary contracts, which makes us think that it is 100% of the fixed-term contracts. The inconvenience is the legal expenses. We’ll need a pool of lawyers, seeing that Alilaguna has engaged the law studio Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partner”.
The same law studio which, as can be read online, “assisted the City of Venice in drafting the municipal regulation that defines the entry fee”.
It started last October as a deck of cards ranging from A to Z, which depicted a list of “confused” situations, that is, the mixing of public and private interests. For example the building permits released to the company sponsoring Reyer, or the restoration service contracted with donors to the election campaign.
From the quadrupled net worth of Umana (from 75 to 319 million) in the last five years to the galaxy of people trusted by the Mayor whose corporate positions in companies connected to the Mayor are multiplying, to the well-known affair of the blind trust and the destiny of the Pili area. A thirteen page dossier in which city councilor Marco Gasparinetti (Terra e Acqua), along with activists from Gruppo 25 Aprile, condensed all of Luigi Brugnaro’s possible conflicts of interest.
This was followed by a special city council meeting in which Mayor Brugnaro responded point by point to the accusations made by the opposition group related to the blind trust, Reyer sponsors, the Abate Zanetti school, Misericordia, as well as the Pili area and the financing of his election campaign.
The special council meeting in October was the third requested by the opposition in recent years, and came three years after the session in February 2018 when Mayor Brugnaro walked out, leaving the championship cup won by Reyer in his seat in city council in Mestre.
THE PRESS CONFERENCE
The prestigious top floor of Ca’ Bollani Erizzo, the Venetian offices of Italia Nostra in campo Ricardo Selvatico, was the scene of the press conference called by Marco Gasparinetti. The choice was not random. Seated alongside the city councilor, in fact, were Lidia Fersuoch and engineer Vincenzo Di Tella. Gianfranco Bettin was connected via telephone.
The theme of the meeting was: “Freedom of expression, some concrete examples and trials – some already concluded, others “still pending” – which seem to share a certain common thread or “modus operandi”. From criticism of MoSE to former Superintendents, guests rattled off all the most recent cases of trials for compensation for civil defamation damages, that is, trials without deadlines and without the possibility of dismissal. Cases that drag on for years, that arrive at a sentence, which often and willingly are concluded with nothing other than the legal expenses incurred.
Lidia Fersuoch, an expert on the lagoon and among the founders of the Venice office of Italia Nostra, cited an example: the case of the flyer created with the cover of the magazine Mondo in 1991, with the title “The idiocies that cost billions”, referring to MoSE. “We decided to make a poster of it, but Consorzio Venezia Nuova was so upset about it that the magistrate of the time ordered a blackout, and then we were sued”.
Fersuoch also reported a more recent episode from 2013, when they were sued together with Italia Nostra Lipu for having “distrusted” former Superintendent Renata Codello in a letter published in the newspapers. “Even Gian Antonio Stella wrote in the Corriere in defense of the right of criticism. In the end we won but it was a period of great anxiety”, explained Fersuoch.
Another effect was that the suit caused Italia Nostra to avoid public statements pending resolution of the dispute: “We were muzzled, another effect of this type of complaint”, added Italia Nostra.
Gianfranco Bettin, soul of the Venetian environmentalist movement, reported the same thing, relating that as an activist he had been the object of various lawsuits for the same reason, with claims for millions in damages. “The spurious lawsuit is a weapon in the hands of those who want to avoid problems being addressed”, he said in solidarity with Gasparinetti, “These cases are aimed at ruining people’s lives, trials that may not lead to anything but which have a big impact due to the length of the proceedings and the legal costs incurred”.
Also present at the conference were engineers Vincenzo Di Tella, Gaetano Sebastiani and Paolo Vielmo. In 2007 the three were served a civil citation and a request for damages which the Consorzio Nuova Venezia entrusted to a pool of lawyers.
Di Tella explains the motive: “The definitive document for the MoSE project is based on a technical falsehood, in short, a fundamental error. We could not remain silent, but this cost us a lawsuit that did not even specify the damages being claimed. In the end the judges ruled in our favor, and we won the case because our criticisms were based on technical arguments”.
At the end of the meeting, Gasparinetti launched an “Appeal in defense of pluralism and the freedom of expression”.
“For a single article published in October 2021 in the ironic and mocking form of a card game, the administrator of the blog “gruppo25aprile.org” has been served with a lawsuit with a compensatory claim of 150,000 Euros, which seems disproportionate (in addition to being unfounded) in relation to the number of readers who had access to the article.”
Signing the appeal requires sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the words “Sottoscrivo l’appello del 6 maggio a difesa della libertà di espressione”. As of the end of 8 May 525 signatures had been received.
Source: La Nuova Venezia di Mestre e Venezia