SEATTLE (CN) – A businessman claims a high school newspaper defamed him by calling him a “slum lord” who rents “crack shacks” and “has been accused of racist renting policy.” Drake Sisley says he is “not given to making claims against school districts,” but this is the second time the Roosevelt High School newspaper published “defamatory false statements” about him.
In the defamation complaint in King County Court, Sisley and his wife state: “In its March 2009 issue of The Roosevelt News, an article was published which was false, defamatory, slanderous and maliciously published which included the following defamatory false statements:
“Drake Sisley and [his brother] Hugh Sisley are infamous landlords.
“Rundown houses owned by infamous landlords Drake and Hugh Sisley are ‘Sisley Slums.’
“The Sisley Slums are rundown houses located in the block west of 15th and 65th.
“Claimant Drake Sisley has a bad reputation among local and city officials.
“Drake Sisley has been accused of racist renting policies.
“The Roosevelt area properties which are crack shacks and ghetto houses are properties owned by the Sisley brothers.”
Sisley adds: “The utter falsity of these statements could easily have been verified prior to the wrongful publication, but no effort at verification was made. This publication was malicious, the result of recklessness and gross negligence on the part of the faculty, the faculty advisor and representatives of Seattle Public Schools and represents tortious conduct for which Seattle Public Schools is liable. …
“In truth and in fact, Drake H. Sisley does not own, manage or have anything to do with the properties described in this article. Drake H. Sisley is not an infamous landlord owning Sisley Slums nor has he presently, or anytime in his life owned crack shacks or ghetto houses and most importantly he has never been a racist landlord nor has he ever been accused of racism in his property dealings or in any other matter.”
Sisley says the paper ran a similar article in 2003 that stated, “The Sisley Brothers are the kings of the local slum. Their monopoly on the run-down homes that surround Roosevelt is worth an estimated $14 million which ranks them among the top three slum lords in the city.”
Sisley says he called the faculty adviser to complain and “assumed that this would not occur again. The 2009 publication is libelous per se and, in view of the 2003 history, was malicious.”
Sisley says the article damaged his reputation, caused monetary loss, mental anguish and exacerbated his diabetes. He and his wife seek damages for defamation and libel. They are represented by Ray Siderius with Siderius Lonergan & Martin.