MPA, Town government appear to be headed to trial

BLYTHEWOOD – Litigation between the Town of Blythewood and MPA Strategies, the town’s former marketing firm, is heading to trial despite both sides seeking delays of key rulings.

The case is tentatively scheduled for the week of Aug. 29, according to online court records.

It’s one of three cases scheduled. Court records indicate it’s a non-jury trial, meaning a judge will decide the outcome.

In an order filed July 13, Circuit Judge William Keesley denied requests to delay various rulings for a mediation effort.

According to the order, Keesley ruled against MPA’s motion for summary judgment, saying that discovery should continue.

Keesley also denied a motion to strike attorney Joseph Dickey as a witness. Dickey is a West Columbia attorney who’s representing MPA.

In a previous filing, the town stated in a March 9 filing that Dickey “has discoverable, non-privileged information related to affirmative defenses and claims made in this case.”

Dickey had stated in an August 2021 filing that the town’s actions “contain intentionally erroneous statements which are defamatory and scandalous.” He said the town characterized him as a witness, calling it a “litigation tactic” to disqualify him from the case.

The town denied that, saying Dickey possesses pertinent information in the case.

“Town reiterates it did not use Dickey’s name for the purpose to defame him, make him a witness in this case, or to attempt to create a conflict between Plaintiff/Counter- Defendants and Dickey and ‘deprive’ Plaintiff/Counter-Defendants their counsel of their choosing,” the town asserted. “That allegation from Plaintiff/Counter-Defendants is offensive and not supported.”

Judge Keesley said MPA’s motion was “compelling,” but thought it was premature to strike Dickey as a witness.

“There are situations where an attorney is properly a fact witness,” Keesley’s order wrote. “The court is not able at this early stage of the case to decide whether or not it is proper to consider Mr. Dickey as a fact witness or how to address the situation, if he is a proper fact witness.”

Keesley directed MPA to either resolve the issue prior to trial or select an alternate attorney should Dickey be disqualified.

A third motion by the Town – motion to compel – was resolved during a hearing on March 12, the judge further stated.

MPA sued the town in June 2021, asserting in court filings that Blythewood Mayor Bryan Franklin failed to properly respond to a S.C. Freedom of Information Act request the marketing firm filed.

The agency filed the FOIA request in April 2021, two months after council voted 3-2 for MPA to perform marketing services for the town. Franklin and Councilman Eddie Baughman voted against.

The FOIA request sought records from Mayor Bryan Franklin relating to MPA after the town required the agency “to further negotiate the contract outside the parameters of the original RFP,” court records state.

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