Brock files for protective motion

BLYTHEWOOD – A town councilman has asked a judge for a protective order regarding testimony in a deposition he says was “unilaterally” set by opposing counsel.

Councilman Donald Brock filed the motion Monday as part of an ongoing Freedom of Information lawsuit between Mayor Bryan Franklin/Town of Blythewood and MPA Strategies, the Town’s former marketing firm.

Brock’s attorney, Jake Moore of Moore Bradley Myers Law Firm in West Columbia, is seeking an Order requiring the Town of Blythewood to pay for the costs of retrieving electronic information which has been requested and for attorney’s fees.

In his motions filing last week, Brock also stated that a conflict of interest exists because the Town’s private attorney wants to depose Brock, who, as a sitting councilman, is part of the Town.

“The Town of Blythewood appears to be represented by Maynard Nexsen,” the motion states, “and appears to have a conflict in that it is attempting to depose Councilman Brock who is part of the Town. The lawyers for the Town refuse to share any information regarding the lawsuit with Councilman Brock. Thus, the law firm in question is keeping serious legal information from Councilman Brock.”

The motion asks the Court for an Order disqualifying counsel for the Town from taking the deposition in question based upon the apparent conflict of interest.

Other grounds for the motion are that, “the documents which have been subpoenaed are not subject to retrieval prior to the date set for the deposition,” the motion states. “Additionally, the deposition date was set unilaterally and counsel for Councilman Brock is not available on that date.”

In the motion, Moore says Brock is willing to cooperate with attorneys for the Town in regard to finding an acceptable date for the deposition so long as arrangements can be made in regard to attorney’s fees and in regard to the collection of the information which is being held electronically and has to be retrieved.

Moore states that the conflict of interest also needs to be heard prior to the taking of any deposition in the matter.

The lawsuit is rooted in a 3-2 vote by county council in February, 2021, to award a marketing contract to MPA over Franklin’s choice, the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce. After the chamber was not awarded the contract, a chamber member came to the podium during a subsequent council meeting, calling MPA Strategies “a sham” company and implored the Town to reconsider and give the contract to the chamber before signing it with MPA.

As the signing of the contract continued to be delayed, Franklin was accused of spreading rumors that MPA’s Chief Executive, Ashley Hunter, had won the contract because of a romantic relationship with Councilman Donald Brock, according to Court records.  MPA submitted a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request in spring 2021 to the Town and Franklin for certain documents.

When those documents weren’t forthcoming, MPA sued the Town in July of 2021, saying it violated state law by not releasing the documents.

The town countersued, alleging eight causes of action, including civil conspiracy, negligence/gross negligence, and other forms of misconduct.

“The undersigned is certainly willing to cooperate with attorneys for the Town in regard to finding an acceptable date,” Brock’s motion states. “The issue related to the conflict of interest also needs to be heard prior to the taking of any depositions in this matter.”

No rulings have been made on the Motion, and the town had not filed a response as of press time.

Franklin filed a motion last month to dismiss MPA’s FOI lawsuit, alleging improper service and asserting other defenses. The judge did not dismiss the suit against Franklin, but is allowing it to go forward.

In an Oct. 5 response, Hunter said she “has become involuntarily embroiled in a small-town political standoff which has resulted in egregious defamatory and tortious conduct against the Plaintiffs by the Defendants.”

The case is still pending.

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