Loan dispute hits courthouse sidewalk

Lethbridge Herald
February 03, 1999

By late afternoon the wind was too much for Antoni Valentino so he propped his sign up outside the courthouse, wheeled himself inside and took up position next to a heat register.

I am here and waiting for you dont be late... ?, reads the enigmatic message.

Valentino, 40, Turkey-born, Canadian citizen, double amputee and a former professional photographer, is only too happy to answer any questions people might have about his public protest, now moving into its third day.

It concerns a $5,500 business loan from the Lethbridge and District Community Futures Development Corporation and the seizure of many more thousands of dollars worth of Valentinos camera equipment put up as collateral.

The equipment, which he values at $40,000, was seized March 28, four days before the first loan payment was due. Valentino paid it anyhow a gesture of good faith, he says.

His business, Valentino Illustration Photography, has gone under.

I invite them to court, says Valentino, with a nod toward the sign. If they are late to move. . .big problem.

A statement of claim, asking for almost $500,000 in damages and compensation for economic hardship, has been filed with the Court of Queens Bench by Valentino and his lawyer. Affidavits have, in turn, been filed by the corporation. No date has been set for a hearing.

Here, in downtown Lethbridge , we are not permitted any terror-making or anarchy-making, says Valentino, in a heavily accented voice. Because they (the corporation) make terror, they take my business and my life.

With Valentinos business, and the camera equipment, went any hope for income. He lives day to day on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped payments of $810 a month.

The corporation directed all calls to lawyer Garner Groome , with the firm Peterson and Purvis. He declined comment until such time as the corporations director, Ed Fetting , allowed it.

Fetting was out of the city.

However, Groome directed inquiries toward a July, 1998, edition of the Alberta Free Press, saying, You can refer to that. Nothing has changed since that article.

It seems the corporations move to seize Valentinos camera gear followed fears he planned to take his equipment and leave the country.

Calgary lawyer, Vaughn Marshall, who acts for Mr. Valentino, says no notice of intent to seize was delivered, nor was a demand for repayment ever seen by his client.

Without demanding repayment and without notice they pounced on him one Saturday morning. . . which is virtually unheard of except in the most extreme cases, he says.

In the Free Press, Groome explained rumours had circulated for months that Valentino was leaving the country. An investigation was performed which revealed little or no business activity at Valentinos commercial property. A subsequent interview with his landlord left the corporation believing Valentino was planning to exit Canada .

Valentino assumes some confusion followed his telling the landlord he had landed a contract in Texas to do photo work for a cookbook.

The relative status of the rumours heard and facts available astounds him.

They heard a rumour , he says. I had a contract. They heard a rumour , I had their payment. What does a rumour prove?

In fact, Valentino showed up at the corporations offices May 1, to make his second loan payment. It was not accepted.

They havent even cashed the first one, says Marshall . They apparently fear reinstatement of the contract.

Groome added, in the Free Press article, the corporation was unaware of the existence or possibility of a Texas contract.

He further maintaied Valentino went into default as soon as he moved equipment out of Alberta without first obtaining the consent of the corporation presumably a first step in either his flight or to fulfill his contractual obligations in Texas .

I have first-hand evidence to establish that his equipment (was) never removed, says Marshall .

Fetting is expected back in Lethbridge today and Groome says hell have more to say concerning the corporations motives and perspective once the two have talked.

Lethbridge Herald