MPA calls on court to strike Blythewood government’s counterclaim

­­BLYTHEWOOD – Blythewood’s counterclaims in an ongoing FOIA lawsuit should be stricken because the town’s allegations do not relate to the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, according to a recent court filing.

Attorneys for MPA Strategies, LLC, which the town previously contracted with to perform marketing services, filed the motion Feb. 7.

MPA sued the town in 2021, asserting violations of FOIA. Blythewood countersued, adding Ashley Hunter, CEO of MPA Strategies, and State and Frink Foundation as counter-defendants, according to court records.

MPA Strategies wants a judge to dismiss Hunter and State and Frink from the litigation, stating it was “inappropriate” to include them.

“The third parties brought into this case are not necessary parties for deciding the FOIA claim,” the motion states. “Therefore, the counterclaims and the addition of third parties are procedurally inappropriate.”

The motion goes on to say that if a judge allows the counterclaims, then the town’s request for a jury trial should be stricken.

MPA Strategies sued the town, asserting non-responsiveness to a FOIA request that sought disclosure of, among other things, certain documents and recordings from Mayor Bryan Franklin related to MPA, Ashley Hunter and State and Frink Foundation, MPA’s nonprofit entity.

The town missed a May 24 deadline to provide the records, which still hadn’t been provided when MPA filed suit on June 28, court records state.

MPA attorneys state in their motion that the original FOIA lawsuit did not request a jury trial, which is why the court should reject the town’s jury trial request.

“This FOIA action was filed explicitly without a jury demand as an action for only equitable relief,” the motion states. “The Defendants, by asserting permissive claims in a non-jury action, waive their right to seek a jury trial.”

Blythewood’s answer and counterclaim asserts eight causes of action against the counter-defendants:

  1. Fraud
  2. Negligent misrepresentation/fraud in the inducement against all Counter-Defendants
  3. Violation of the S.C. Unfair Trade Practices Act
  4. Violation of the S.C. Frivolous Civil Proceedings Sanction Act
  5. Civil conspiracy
  6. Violation of the Federal False Claims Act
  7. Punitive damages
  8. Negligence/gross negligence

The motion and associated FOIA case are separate from a defamation lawsuit Hunter and MPA Strategies recently filed on Jan. 30.

Named as defendants in the suit are Mayor Franklin; the Town of Blythewood; Tonya Page, editor of the Country Chronicle; and Camden Media Company, which previously owned the Country Chronicle.

None of the parties had filed a response as of press time, according to the Richland County Public Index.

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]