Attorney: MPA to sue Town of Blythewood, Franklin for defamation, breach of contract

BLYTHEWOOD – Attempts to settle an ongoing lawsuit between the Town of Blythewood and its former marketing firm appear to have fizzled.

Now MPA Strategies LLC, which filed a Freedom of Information complaint stating the Town violated public record laws, plans to sue the Town for defamation and breach of contract, according to recent court filings.

“My client will be filing a suit against the Town, [Mayor Bryan] Franklin and possibly others for defamation, breach of contract, and other claims,” MPA attorney Joseph Dickey, Jr. wrote in a February 8 email to attorney David Black of Nexsen Pruet, the firm representing the Town of Blythewood.

Dickey, however, suggested that the second suit could possibly be resolved in arbitration.

“I’m happy to discuss with you when you have a chance,” Dickey continued. “I am still of the opinion that us going to mediation with a strong mediator to hammer a lot of this out is best if we can get our respective clients to the table.”

The Town’s costs or the first suit stand at about $100K with another $80K budget through June, 2022.

Dickey’s email was included along with other documentation in a Motion to Compel the Town filed Feb. 11. It involves a dispute over interrogatories the town said it sent MPA in August, 2021.

MPA had not furnished the information as of Feb. 11, prompting the town to file its motion to compel, according to court filings.

“Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant has not produced any documents and has not responded to written requests,” the Feb. 11 motion states.

The town’s discovery questions cover a multitude of subjects, ranging from MPA communications, to various requests for proposal (RFP) documentation. In all, the Town’s attorneys submitted 35 separate questions.

Sent Feb. 4, Black’s email signaled that mediation efforts regarding the original lawsuit have essentially faded.

“I think we are on the same page that any meaningful settlement efforts now appear to be derailed,” Black wrote. “Accordingly, the town would greatly appreciate [MPA CEO Ashley] Hunter’s discovery responses by next Friday the 11th of February.”

Dickey responded that MPA would likely miss that deadline, and offered further clues into MPA’s legal strategy.

“I definitely can’t get you any responses by Friday, but we’ll try our best efforts and keep you informed,” Dickey answered. “You should know that we will be filing a motion for a protective order regarding the bulk of the Town’s requests as they touch on privilege and other matters.”

MPA sued the Town of Blythewood in June 2021, saying the Town failed to release communications to Dickey that he had requested from Franklin under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

In July 2021, Blythewood filed its response and also countersued and terminated MPA’s contract, according to court records.

The town’s answer lists nine counterclaims, many of which revolve around accusations that MPA misrepresented its non-profit status to qualify for a marketing contract subsidized by taxpayer money. 

However, according to Sec 6-4-10 of the state law governing the allocation of state accommodations tax funds, states that to be eligible to receive the 30 percent state accommodations tax funds, an organization is only required to have a non-profit status and have an existing, ongoing tourism promotion program.

The Town also accused MPA of unfair trade practices, civil conspiracy and providing campaign advice to certain council members and the local newspaper, court documents state.

MPA flatly denied the countersuit’s claims in an August 2021 filing, citing 33 various defenses.

The trial will likely be continued until at least the next term of court. Attorneys for both sides have filed a joint motion for continuance, citing scheduling conflicts with other cases.

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