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Charity Founder’s Son|Loses Defamation Claim

(CN) - The son of Feed the Children founder Larry Jones was unable to convince the 10th Circuit to reinstate his lawsuit accusing his sister of defaming him by telling the organization's directors that he was diagnosed as bipolar.

Allen Jones claimed that his sister and Feed the Children's general counsel, Larri Sue Jones, told the board of directors that Allen was bipolar at an April 11, 2008 meeting.

The allegedly false and malicious statement was recorded in the meeting minutes, which were ratified at the next board meeting.

Several months later, the directors claimed they were targeted in a "coup attempt" for control of the Christian relief organization, one of the nation's largest charities. Larry Jones allegedly appointed five of his friends to the board to oust the longstanding directors.

The ousted directors sought an injunction in Oklahoma state court to block the new directors from taking control of the charity. They attached copies of numerous board meeting minutes to the petition, including notes from the meeting in which Larri Sue said Allen was diagnosed as bipolar.

When the court unsealed the petition, the media quickly published the allegedly defamatory statement.

An Oklahoma judge eventually reinstated most of the ousted directors and executives.

Allen sued the former board members and Larri Sue, claiming their attachment of the meeting minutes to the state court petition constituted defamation per se.

A federal judge dismissed the action, concluding that the statement -- and its attachment to the petition -- were privileged under Oklahoma law.

The federal appeals court in Denver agreed.

"The minutes from the April 11, 2008 meeting were undeniably pertinent to the state court action," the court wrote.

"First, the minutes served to identify the legitimately elected board members of [Feed the Children]. Second, the minutes constituted evidence of the board's genuine concern about suspicious expenditures by the Jones family, and even more specifically, the board's concern that 'Allen's behavior [had] become more destructive toward Feed the Children and its employees.'"

The reinstated directors voted to fire Larry Jones in November 2009, after he admitted to installing hidden microphones in three executives' offices.

The Oklahoma attorney general launched a formal investigation of the Oklahoma City-based charity based on allegations that the organization misused charity funds.

Larry Jones has accused the directors of using charity money to pay $300,000 in legal fees, among other things. In a second lawsuit, he seeks reinstatement as president.

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