Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin is still struggling with the consequences of 2017’s Foxconn Deal. Scott Walker, the former Governor of Wisconsin promised $3 billion to Taiwan’s tech company in return for Mount Pleasant’s construction of a factory. He also claimed that it would create 13,000 jobs.
Four years later the factory was not nearly complete and there were only 1,400 job opportunities. While the majority of subsidies were canceled by the state, the Mount Pleasant Village Board was authorized to bulldoze dozens more homes. It also had the authority to use eminent jurisdiction to designate over 4 miles of land “blighted” in order to facilitate the acquisition of private property. In addition, it took on hundreds and millions of dollars in debt which led to the town losing its credit rating.
Residents had harsh words to say about city government when the same members of the board voted to increase their terms from two to three years after jeopardizing town’s future. One of the board members is now being sued.
Kelly Gallaher, a community activist and leader of A Better Mt. Pleasant (ABMP). She began her activism almost a decade ago when the board attempted to eliminate public comments at meetings. Gallaher started a petition to get the word out about board’s decision to increase its term by 50%. She collected enough signatures in just two weeks to put the matter up for a public vote.
Chris Smith, the Village Attorney tried to sell the extension to the public. Racine Journal Times The idea wasn’t new and the village board had already discussed it as early as 2018. Gallaher regularly watches board meetings and was aware that this topic had not been discussed in the past. Smith was able to email Smith and he confirmed that the matter was not addressed publicly until April 2021. This meeting was also recorded without audio or video. Gallaher wrote a false email about the interview to the newspaper on March 3. Smith has lied to your satisfaction.” Smith lied to you.” She posted another Facebook post on the ABMP page, “The Village Attorney lied about The Journal Times’ timeline”.
Smith demanded Gallaher remove the Facebook post that was posted on this day. Otherwise, he would sue. Gallaher took down the Facebook post and replaced it with Smith’s retraction. Gallaher sued Smith anyway, seven days later.
Smith claimed Gallaher’s comments caused “emotional distress” in his defamation file. Smith claims her social media and email statements were false and misleading.[ed]To harm the reputation of plaintiff,” she said, and was “consistently and publically portraying” her actions.[s]”Online, Village officials and employees were negatively reacted to by them.” Also, he claimed that even though Gallaher had retract its statement, she had never emailed her retractions to the Journal TimesThis is a further indication that she had been acting “intentionally” and with explicit malice.
The Institute for Justice (IJ), which is a libertarian law firm that represents Gallaher filed a motion for dismissal on Thursday. Smith must show “actual malice” to prove that Gallaher deliberately lied or displayed “reckless disregard” of the truth. This is according to the motion.
But as James Knight, Law & Liberty Fellow at IJ and an attorney on the case, told ReasonThe evidence supports the contrary. She made sure to research the matter thoroughly and allowed him to clarify his misunderstanding if it was. In addition, Gallaher included an entire email thread detailing her conversations with Smith, particularly citing the distinction between Smith’s statements to the paper and Smith’s admission via email that the truth had been different. She also included screenshots of her emails in the same manner.
Knight stated that even if Smith was not public, it would not still be defamation. “What she said is simply an opinion. “What she stated was her interpretation of Smith’s statement.”
The right to critique public officials is one of the fundamental rights Americans enjoy. It is therefore more difficult for public officials to prove defamation when they discuss public issues. IJ has made it clear that Smith is unlikely to prevail against Gallaher in trial. In fact, the lawsuit will probably be dropped before the end of this month. Knight explained that this is not the case. ReasonHis lawsuit wasn’t supposed to be won. She was scared to silence.