News  Former student politician sues health plan provider

Defamation suit seeks $130,000 for public accusation of extortion

MONTREAL (CUP) – A former Concordia Student Union (CSU) politician is suing Concordia’s health plan provider and the company’s owner for defamation. Steven Rosenshein claims that Lev Bukhman, who owns Alliance pour la santé étudiante au Québec (ASEQ) – the company that provides Concordia’s student health and dental plan – attacked Rosenshein’s reputation.

Last February, Bukhman sent an open letter to the CSU, university officials, and campus media, alleging that the CSU acted in bad faith toward him and his company.

In the letter he also accused Rosenshein of asking him for a $25,000 kickback, which would have allegedly gone to fund the Unity slate during the Spring 2007 CSU elections. Acccording to Bukhman, the CSU cancelled their health plan contract with ASEQ because he refused to pay the kickback. Instead, the CSU signed a plan with the Canadian Federation of Students-Services, through their National Student Health Network. That decision has since been reversed and the CSU has re-signed with ASEQ.

According to Rosenshein’s statement of claim filed with the Quebec Superior Court, Bukhman “decided to defame Rosenshein as part of a larger plan to discredit the 2008-09 CSU executive and to try and influence” Concordia student politics, in an effort to remain the CSU’s insurance broker. Rosenshein is seeking $130,000 in damages and legal fees, with $75,000 for damage to his reputation, $25,000 for punitive and exemplary damages, and $30,000 to cover his legal fees.

Rosenshein had a long career with the CSU, serving as council chair, vice-president of communications, and as a councillor. During his council term he came under fire for sitting as a representative for independent students despite not being an independent student, which is forbidden under CSU rules.

Bukhman claimed that Rosenshein asked for the bribe on March 6, 2008, after a speech by Al Sharpton at Concordia. While Rosenshein’s claim acknowledges the two talked about money that evening, he claims that he was asking Bukhman about a $12,500 donation he said Bukhman had promised the CSU.

According to the statement of claim, Rosenshein was worried “as the next year would bring in new executives who might not know about the donation.”

While Bukhman’s letter claimed Rosenshein had acted as campaign manager for the Unity during the Spring 2007 CSU elections, according to Rosenshein’s claim, he “barely involved himself with the CSU campaign; in any case the campaign itself was uneventful,” as the slate ran unopposed.

The statement also claims that “Rosenshein never intended or tried to influence the 2008-09 executive to sever its ties with ASEQ.”

While Rosenshein admitted that he questioned the renewal of the contract, other councillors also shared his concerns. He also denied taking action on the issue beyond asking questions at council meetings.

Moreover, Rosenshein claimed the allegations made against him were more damaging because he was an employee of the Canadian Federation of Students-Quebec at the time Bukhman made them.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The case, which was filed in April, is still in the discovery phase, in which the two parties can gather evidence and question witnesses. Rosenshein has until October 14 to finish discovery. If the case does make it to trial, a court date would still be months away.

Requests for comment from Bukhman and to Rosenshein, through his lawyer, were not returned by press time.