Defamation Suit for Telling Truth
- Mayor Richard M. Daley grudgingly bears the news media’s tendency to “scrooten” him constantly. Stephanie D. Neely, the first-term city treasurer, is taking a different approach to dealing with scrutiny from at least one pen-wielding critic. She retained a lawyer and is threatening a defamation suit against a Chicago police officer who repeatedly criticized her in the F.O.P. News, a union newsletter published by the local Fraternal Order of Police.
- In the articles, Michael K. Shields wrote that Ms. Neely, acting as a member of the police pension board, cast votes that favored pension fund managers who contributed to her campaign. Her assertion that the articles entitle her to “substantial damages” from Mr. Shields and the union has not deterred Mr. Shields. State records confirm the donations from fund managers to Ms. Neely’s campaign.
In an interview this week, Ms. Neely said she was justified in threatening to sue and strongly denied that campaign cash influenced her actions on the boards of the police pension fund and other public employee funds.
“My reputation is all I have,” she said. “I have acted in the best interests of the funds.”
Don't worry about Shields though. He's on solid legal ground:
Sandy Davidson, a professor of communications law at the University of Missouri, said Mr. Shields had not defamed Ms. Neely. His “shakedown” comment, Ms. Davidson said, is a classic example of free speech known in legal circles as rhetorical hyperbole.
“The Supreme Court has made it clear that it is so important we have this wide-open, robust debate, especially in political disputes,” Ms. Davidson said after reviewing Mr. Shields’s articles. “Public officials voluntarily assume the risk that they will face scrutiny.”
Labels: city politics