CHICAGO (CN) – The Sun-Times defamed a Chicago Better Housing Association volunteer and his wife in two stories that questioned the validity of a city project, the couple and the group claim in Cook County Court.
Kenny Smith claims the tabloid falsely reported that he “failed to deliver on a plan to create a botanic garden” for Chicago’s Englewood community, after then-Senator Barack Obama secured him a $100,000 grant.
Smith says the Sun-Times inaccurately called him a volunteer for Obama’s congressional campaign and called the Chicago Better Housing Association his “nonprofit group.”
Smith says that donated $500 to Obama’s campaign, but never worked for it, and that he is only a volunteer for the association, which has been around since the 1950s.
Smith says the Sun-Times falsely reported that he gave his wife Karen $65,000 of the state’s money, and $20,000 in additional grant funds.
Smith says that money went to his wife’s company, K.D. Contractors, which made the lowest bid for the project, and paid the money to subcontractors, with no profit.
The Sun-Times stated that the botanic garden was “never built,” and that an architect from defendant Illinois Green Industry Association noted that the only work done was construction of a gazebo and some tree trimming, which caused the state to “seek repayment of the grant money,” according to the complaint.
But the Smiths say that the work done on the property included “underground site preparation … grubbing, cleaning, top soil removal and replacement, removing debris, demolition of remaining underground foundations and basements for five homes that were demolished … preparation of nature paths, planting of vegetation and the building and construction of an above-ground cement base and above-ground park-gazebo with roof attached.”
The Smiths say they have turned over photos and records of the project.
The relevant articles were published in July and September 2008.
The Smiths also sued The New York Post, which they say republished the first article without independent investigation.
The Smiths demand at least $30,000 in damages for libel and contractual interference, and retractions.
The Smiths and the Chicago Better Housing Association are represented by L. Steven Platt with Arnold & Kadjan.