Chronicle editor, others answer MPA lawsuit

BLYTHEWOOD – The editor of the County Chronicle named in a conspiracy lawsuit along with the Town of Blythewood and its mayor is asking a judge to throw the case against her out.

The Country Chronicle was previously owned by Camden Media, a partnership owned by Charles H. Morris of Savannah, Ga., and Mike Mischner of Camden, SC.

It has since been sold and is now owned by Paxton Media Group and is published out of Paducah, Kentucky.

Meantime, the Camden media company that employed the editor and that is a co-defendant in the same suit, has denied most of the allegations against it in a recently filed response.

In January, Ashley Hunter, the chief executive of MPA Strategies, sued the Town of Blythewood and Mayor Bryan Franklin over comments suggesting MPA landed a town contract because of a romantic relationship between Hunter and Town Councilman Donald Brock. Both Hunter and Brock have denied the allegation.

The lawsuit originally accused Page of defamation, negligence, civil conspiracy, and tortious interference against a contract, and Camden Media of negligence.

MPA has since dismissed the defamation and negligence causes of action against Page, but the remaining parts of the suit remain active.

In a motion to dismiss filed May 30, Page asserts her news coverage of Franklin’s comments about the MPA contract was “substantially accurate,”

Franklin told people at a Blythewood Chamber of Commerce function that Hunter and Brock were “having an affair,” and that it was why she got the marketing contract, according to the original suit.

The Town and Mayor Franklin have filed motions to dismiss on procedural and technical grounds.

Page’s attorney argues in a memo that the “fair report” privilege protects journalists even when they quote false statements, provided said statements appear in government records or are stated in public settings.

“Plaintiffs cannot make an ‘end run’ around the fair report privilege and other protections afforded to the media against defamation claims by calling their claims by another name,” the motion states. “This Court should dismiss Page from the present lawsuit, with prejudice, because Plaintiffs’ remaining causes of action against her are an improper attempt to avoid the protections provided to news reporters by the fair report privilege and other defamation defenses.”

Further, Page’s attorney said there’s no proof his client worked in concert with Mayor Franklin to defame Hunter.

“The Complaint fails to sufficiently allege that Page and Franklin had any sort of agreement or acted in combination,” the memo states. “Nor does the Complaint sufficiently allege that Page’s primary purpose was to injure Plaintiffs.”

Camden Media has denied most of the assertions in the MPA lawsuit.

The newspaper group denied that any articles “overly favored” any person or position. Camden Media acknowledged, however, that Page didn’t contact Hunter to seek comment before publishing content in some of her stories. The group also asserts that many of Page’s stories quoted public records verbatim. The content included remarks where Franklin accused Hunter of “trying to drag [Blythewood] in the mud with totally unfounded claims that appear to benefit her and Councilman Brock, according to court records.

Camden Media has asked for the MPA suit to be dismissed and is also seeking attorney fees and other costs related to the suit.

A deadline of August 28 has been set to complete mediation.

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