Sources close to Patrick Brown say he never signed a resignation letter and is still leader of the Ontario PC Party, CityNews reported Thursday.
The report came as Brown said on Facebook that he is suing CTV News over its reporting of what he alleges are false accusations of sexual misconduct.
"I am solely focused on clearing my name, not technicalities," says Patrick Brown after CityNews reported Thursday that he never signed a resignation letter and is still leader of the Ontario PC Party.
CityNews quoted sources further claiming the party leadership race is invalid and someone in the PC party crafted the resignation letter without Brown’s authorization or signature.
According to the report, sources said that if the PC party goes ahead with the leadership vote on March 10, it could be met with a legal challenge.
The sources also said Brown is being encouraged to take his seat in the chair of leader of the Opposition when the legislature resumes on Feb. 20.
“It is his rightful and lawful seat,” one of the sources said. “This is an assault on our democracy. We can basically go into an election without a leader in June if the party pushes back.”
On Twitter, Brown commented on the CityTV report, saying "This story was just brought to my attention. I appreciate the enthusiasm but I did not authorize this. I am solely focused on clearing my name, not technicalities."
Brown said in a Facebook post Thursday that two unnamed women who made their allegations to CTV are lying, and that his lawyers have reached out to the network's legal team.
"I am suing CTV," he wrote. "My lawyers are talking to CTV. Early this week, CTV lawyers agreed to ensure that all emails, texts and other correspondence related to this travesty are held independently for safe keeping."
Report prompted Brown's resignation
It was not immediately clear if Brown has filed a statement of claim or other legal documents with a court. CTV News, which has repeatedly said it stands by its reporting, did not immediately respond to request for comment.
CTV's report in late January prompted Brown's resignation as Tory leader mere months before a spring election. The broadcaster said the accusations from two women, which have not been verified by The Canadian Press, dated back to Brown's time as a federal MP.
In it's original report, CTV said one woman, who is now 29, claimed she was still in high school and under the legal drinking age when Brown allegedly asked her to perform oral sex on him at his home on a night when she had been drinking. Another woman said she was a university student working in Brown's constituency office when he allegedly sexually assaulted her at his home, CTV reported.
Late Tuesday, CTV reported that the first accuser now said she had not been in high school or under the legal drinking age during the alleged incident. The woman said the altered timeline did not change the core of her allegations. Brown's second accuser has also said she stands by her story.
Brown has staged a mounting campaign to clear his name in recent days, speaking out in his own defence on social media and in media interviews.
He has said both women's accounts contain discrepancies that show their accusations are false. He has also alleged both accusers know CTV reporters socially, and that the broadcaster has left out contradicting witness accounts in its reports.
Brown has further called the first accuser's altered timeline a "monumental" change in the narrative.
"Here is my message to CTV News. You lied. You defamed me," he said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. "And here is my message to my accusers – both of them. If you truly stand by your allegations, then I urge you to contact Barrie Police and have them lay charges."
Brown also suggested in an interview with Global News that political rivals were the driving force behind the allegations that cost him the party leadership.
"I don't know who's behind this. I believe it's my political adversaries," he said in the interview that aired Wednesday night. "I'm going to look under every stone to find out who set this up. But if they can set up two women, what would stop them from setting up another? And frankly, I'm worried that if they could do this to me, who else could they do this to?"
The Liberals poured scorn on the suggestion, calling the suggestion "ridiculous" and not worthy of a response.
Brown claimed he has "political enemies"
Both the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives declined to comment on Brown's statements, which also hint at internal party discord.
In a tweet previewing a second segment of the interview set to air Thursday night, Global said Brown claims to have "political enemies" both inside and outside the party he once led.
Brown and the Conservatives were riding high in the polls in the weeks leading up to his resignation and seemed well poised to mount a formidable challenge to Premier Kathleen Wynne in the upcoming June election.
Wynne is currently contending with historically low approval ratings as her party deals with backlash on issues ranging from energy prices to minimum wage rates.
Meanwhile, for the Progressive Conservatives, Brown's resignation touched off a leadership contest now featuring four contenders.
Former MPP Christine Elliott, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, lawyer and political rookie Caroline Mulroney and parental rights activist Tanya Granic Allen are all vying to take the reigns of the party. The new leader will be named on March 10 after a week of voting by party members.