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Campaigner files suit against former Hancock council candidates

August 27, 2005|By PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK

A woman who campaigned for Hancock Town Council candidates filed a defamation lawsuit against three candidates who she claims slandered her name after they lost the January election, according to the June lawsuit filed in Washington County Circuit Court.

Deborah S. Cohill, who is listed in the June 22 lawsuit as director of Interfaith Service Coalition, said Greg Yost, Darwin Mills and Frank Courtney sought to defame her by alleging she campaigned on Interfaith Service Coalition time and with its resources, according to the suit.

She alleged that Yost said there were rumors "that (she) had improperly used her influence as director of Interfaith Service Coalition to sway the vote" in the election, held Jan. 31.

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Cohill said in the lawsuit that she campaigned on her own time for candidates who went on to win the election, beating the defendants. She said that she did hold an informal gathering to introduce political candidates to Monterey House residents before the election, but it was not on Interfaith Service Coalition property, in its name or with its endorsement. She said she made a salad, the ingredients for which she paid herself.

Yost "made the statements and knew or should have known that the statements would be reduced to writing in the minutes of the meeting," according to the suit. She said that the comments were reported in "the local newspaper" and said the statements are libelous.

She alleged Yost wrote a letter to her Interfaith Service Coalition supervisor and to the Hancock elections supervisor calling her actions criminal.

Yost "requested a complete public audit by the Interfaith Service Coalition concerning (her) activities, implying that (her) conduct was criminal or at least improper," according to the suit.

Cohill alleged Mills and Courtney received copies of a letter written by her Interfaith Service Coalition supervisor, saying that there was no basis for Yost's claims.

She claimed in the lawsuit that Yost, after receiving the letter from her supervisor, wrote her another letter, saying she "had committed crimes and acted improperly."

He then "published the letter with malice or reckless disregard for the truth," she alleged in the suit.

Mills, Courtney and Yost then sent letters to the United Way of Washington County and the Washington County Gaming Commission, both of which fund Interfaith Service Coalition, saying she "misused her position," she alleged in the complaint.

In their letter to United Way, she claimed in the suit, the men "stated that (she) used undue influence and pressured voters to vote for the candidates (she) supported."

She said that they alleged she committed a federal crime, according to the suit.

Messages left for Yost, Mills and Courtney seeking comment were not returned by Friday night.

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