Judges Throws Out Water Suit Defamation Claims Which Stemmed from KEEL Interview
It's a win in round 1 for Shreveport's Mayor and CAO in the water billing scandal.
The City of Shreveport issued the following news release regarding the decision:
Judge Craig Marcotte, of the First Judicial District Court in Caddo Parish, dismissed the defamation claims against Mayor Ollie Tyler and CAO Brian Crawford which were filed by Attorney Jerry Harper on behalf of Scott Pernici and Michael Wainwright. Pernici and Wainwright were ordered to pay all the attorneys’ fees incurred by the City to defend this suit. The Court found Mayor Tyler and CAO Crawford exercised their constitutional First Amendment rights of free speech when they commented on the water billing issues.
Some of the comments mentioned in the lawsuit came from an interview on KEEL in October of 2016 about the water billing problems. The plaintiffs alleged they were defamed during that interview, but the judge ruled against the plaintiffs.
The Court also stated the water matters were issues of public concern, and Mayor Tyler and CAO Crawford were not liable for damages..
“We are pleased at the outcome of the ruling, and that the Court recognized the important freedoms granted by the First Amendment,” said Mayor Tyler. “This administration is committed to addressing issues in the Water and Sewerage Department. We will continue defending the related lawsuits and pursuing our outstanding claims against Systems and Software.” The City of Shreveport filed a lawsuit in Caddo Parish District Court last month against its water billing provider, Systems & Software Inc. The City is demanding payment for under-billed water and sewer revenue, which it believes resulted from various errors, including those made in programming the tiered water rates in the City’s billing system in 2014.
Here is the KEEL interview from October of 2016: