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Judge rules in favor of former councilman

November 29, 2005|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A Washington County judge ruled comments and letters by a former Hancock councilman about a woman who campaigned for his opponent were not defamatory and dismissed one count of a lawsuit against him outright.

Three other counts in the suit against former Councilman Greg Yost also were dismissed, but the woman who filed the suit is able to amend the complaint on those counts within 15 days, according to the Nov. 23 ruling by Circuit Court Judge W. Kennedy Boone III.

"We're greatly relieved and will be relieved a lot more in 15 days," Yost said by phone Monday.

Two other counts in the June 22 lawsuit filed by Deborah S. Cohill are against former councilman Darwin Mills and former council candidate Frank Courtney, according to Boone's ruling.

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Boone has not made a decision on those counts.

Yost ran for mayor in the February election and was defeated by incumbent Daniel Murphy. Mills and Courtney lost bids for seats on the town council.

Mills and Courtney were listed as co-defendents in the suit.

Cohill's attorney, Michael Cox, said Monday he had no comment on Boone's decision and didn't know what future steps might be taken by Cohill.

"That's up to the plaintiff, and I have yet to discuss that with her," Cox said.

Cohill is listed in the lawsuit as director of Interfaith Service Coalition.

The suit claims Yost, Mills and Courtney sought to defame Cohill by alleging she campaigned on Interfaith Service Coalition time and with its resources, according to the suit.

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 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 and paid for the ingredients with her own money.

Yost, while still a councilman, made statements at a Feb. 9 Town Council meeting about Cohill's campaigning, which Cohill alleged in the suit were defamatory.

Boone ruled that those statements were protected by absolute privilege and that letters Yost later wrote about Cohill's campaign actions were not defamatory.

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