McKenrick calls for attorneys to continue pursuit of MPA cases

Councilman McKenrick, right, reads motion to retain attorneys.

BLYTHEWOOD – Returning from an executive session during Monday night’s special called town council meeting, Councilman Rich McKenrick took the lead for the second time in less than a year in calling for council to reaffirm the contracts of the town’s outside attorneys, who are defending the lawsuits filed by MPA Strategies and Ashley Hunter, and are pressing forward with a countersuit the Town filed July 20, 2021, against MPA and Hunter. The vote was 3-0 with Councilman Donald Brock abstaining.

McKenrick asked council Monday night to “affirm our agreements with both the Shannon Burnett law firm and Nexsen Pruet law firm to continue handling all affairs related to MPA Strategies, any counterclaims, future claims that may arise or be served as they pertain to MPA strategies and members of council.”

Last May, McKenrick also led the call for council to authorize all actions taken by the Town government, its contracted law firms and other town officials regarding all matters – which could include lawsuits – aimed, specifically, at The Voice and its publisher Barbara Ball et al, and others including Ashley Hunter and Brock.

McKenrick, Franklin, Baughman and Councilman Sloan Griffin voted for that motion. Brock voted against.

Councilman Eddie Baughman seconded McKenrick’s motion, and Franklin summarized it, “to retain all current outside counsel through the process of the MPA lawsuit, current and future.”

McKenrick’s motion to press on against Hunter and MPA and all others related to MPA comes one week after Ashley Hunter and MPA Strategies filed a second lawsuit on Jan. 30, 2023 against the Town and Franklin, this time also including causes of action against the Country Chronicle editor Tonya F. Page and Camden Media Company LLC, which owned the County Chronicle in partnership with Multi-Morris Media in Savannah, GA.

Unrelated to the lawsuit filed on Jan. 30, it was announced on Thursday, Feb. 2, that Camden Media had been sold on Feb. 1, to Paxton Media Company in Murfreesboro, KY.  See sidebar.

The MPA suit alleges defamation, tortious interference with contract, civil conspiracy, and negligence by Franklin and Tonya F. Page; defamation, breach of contract and negligence by the Town of Blythewood: and negligence by Camden Media Company LLC.    

“The basic premise of this lawsuit is that Defendants were party to an effort by the Mayor to suggest that Plaintiff obtained business not based on merit, but instead based on romantic involvement with a Town Councilman,” the suit states. The lawsuit goes on to deny any romantic involvement occurred between the councilman and Plaintiff.

“Suggesting that a woman’s success is not based on her merit, but is instead based on appearance, flirtation, or romantic involvement is wrong and regressive; especially where, as is the case here, the suggestions of romantic involvement are false,” the suit continues.

“The remarks by Franklin were made with malice based on his political feud with Brock, disappointment and bruised ego based on his preference for the Chamber of Commerce over MPA Strategies not carrying the weight of council, and his retaliatory disdain for the Plaintiffs because Hunter took appropriate legal action to protect herself,” according to the suit.

In the suit, MPA accuses Tonya Page, editor of the Country Chronicle, of “behaving as a mouthpiece for Franklin” and “displaying favoritism toward the mayor in her news stories while simultaneously defaming Hunter’s business.”

In September 2021, Camden Media Company was “put on notice of Page’s conduct,” the suit states, saying, “The company ‘ratified’ comments that had been published in a prior story.

Hunter’s lawsuit states that Page’s “conduct has continued unabated causing further harm to the Plaintiff that was preventable.”

Following adjournment of Monday night’s meeting, Franklin read a statement he said the Town’s attorneys, David Black (Nexsen Pruet) and Shannon Burnett, asked him to read. That statement included the following: “These claims were expected as they relate to the Town’s counterclaim against MPA and Ms. Hunter.”

The attorneys’ statement went on to say that, “the Town plans to vigorously defend itself against these baseless allegations made in the complaint.”

Camden Media sold to Paxton Media Group

CAMDEN – Paxton Media Group (PMG) is acquiring the Chronicle-Independent, the Lee County Observer, the Blythewood Country Chronicle, the Winnsboro/Fairfield County Country Chronicle, the Ft. Jackson Leader, The Shaw News, and assorted glossy magazines and websites from Camden Media Co., a long-time partnership owned by Charles H. Morris of Savannah, Ga. and Mike Mischner of Camden, S.C.

Paxton Media Group, a 125-year-old family owned media company headquartered in Paducah, Ky., is managed by fourth- and fifth-generation Paxton family members. The company owns more than 120 newspapers across the Southeast and Midwest including newspapers in Lancaster, Chester and Chesterfield counties in South Carolina, which are adjacent to Camden Media Co. markets.

In a related statement, Mischner has announced that he will be retiring once the sale takes place.

PMG assumed ownership on Wednesday (Feb. 1).

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