Texas Mayor Wins Libel Ruling Over News Ad

     (CN) – A Texas appeals court allowed a city mayor to move forward with a defamation lawsuit against a man who took out a newspaper advertisement that she claims cost her re-election.

     Eight days before the 2007 mayoral election in the city of Keller, Jack Brock complained in a Keller Citizen newspaper ad that his subdivision plat had been “ruined by a corrupt City Hall.”
     Brock said Mayor Julie Frederick Tandy had improperly backdated the plat approval.
     “More than corruption, this amounts to fraud,” Brock wrote in his ad.
     Brock also accused the city government of ruining 20 residential lots by placing a faulty drain pipe on his property that serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
     “After living here for 80 years,” Brock concluded in his ad, “it is a sad day when I have to go to the county district attorney’s office about the corruption in our city.”
     Tandy lost the election and sued Brock for libel. The trial court denied Brock’s motion for summary judgment, so he filed an interlocutory appeal.
     Brock argued that his assertions were based on fact, were not defamatory, and were not made with actual malice. Judge McCoy of the Fort Worth-based Texas Court of Appeal disagreed and allowed the mayor to continue her lawsuit.
“A reasonable person could view the ad as appearing to impeach Tandy’s honesty or reputation and to expose her to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule,” McCoy wrote.

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