By Ed Brock
A Riverdale city councilman is now suing the man who tried to have him recalled and a radio talk show host for slander and is asking for $10 million in damages.
Councilman Rick Scoggins filed the lawsuit in Clayton County State Court on July 26. It names Devele Andrews, leader of a failed effort to recall Scoggins and Councilwoman Wanda Wallace, WAOK 1380 AM radio personality Coz Carson and Carson's employer Infinity Broadcasting East Inc.
The suit alleges that Andrews and Carson engaged in a "deliberate and malicious attempt to slander, humiliate and destroy" Scoggins, according to Scoggins' attorney T. Michael Martin.
Andrews and Carson say they haven't been served with papers in the suit, but Carson called it "frivolous and baseless."
The suit refers to comments Andrews and Carson made on Carson's show on June 7 as well as comments made in the recall application Andrews took out on June 1. In both instances, the lawsuit alleges, Andrews and Carson accused Scoggins of unlawful and unethical conduct and claims the two men knew the allegations were false.
"When you run for political office you expect to have to tolerate a certain amount of derogatory and untrue statements being made about you," Scoggins said in a statement. "When individuals cross the line and begin accusing you of violating the law and violating your oath of office, you can't just let it go. When they use the public airways to specifically accuse you of violating the law, and when there is absolutely no truth to their allegations, you have to take a stand."
Andrews' petition for recall failed because only 77 of the 100 people who signed his petition were qualified to do so. He dropped any further efforts for the recall at the behest of Kelly Jackson, a former candidate for mayor in Riverdale, Andrews said.
"She personally called me and asked me to stop," Andrews said. "But it seems like it's not going to stop."
Andrews said he did not want to comment on the lawsuit itself until after he had been served with official notice of the suit.
Carson also said he would not comment until being served, but he did say he thinks the lawsuit will " probably be tossed out by the first judge who sees it."
"I've been a professional broadcaster for 28 years and never been sued before," Carson said.
According to court documents a letter regarding the suit was sent to Infinity Broadcasting, Inc. Senior Vice President Rick Caffey. Caffey did not return phone calls seeking comment but a woman who answered the phone at the office who would not give her name said the station had not been served with papers in the lawsuit.
Once the defendants are served, Martin said, they will have 30 days to respond and after that the discovery period will begin.
"I fully expect other defendants will be named when we go through the discovery process because other people were involved in this," Martin said.
Today is the deadline for filing another recall petition application, this one aimed at Riverdale Mayor Phaedra Graham, that was picked up on July 14. The man on record as picking up the petition, Leroy Jones, said previously that he passed the petition on to other people and he did not know the status of the petition.
Jones refused to identify the people to whom he had given the petition.
If the application is turned in with 100 signatures and those signatures are verified then a recall petition would be issued, Riverdale City Clerk Sandra Meyers said previously. Then the petition supporters would have 30 days to get signatures from 30 percent of the city's registered voters before the recall effort could proceed to a special election for the seats of the recalled officials, according to state law.
Grounds for recall include an elected official acting in a manner that adversely affects both the administration of that official's office and the rights and interests of the public.
In addition, the official must have engaged in misconduct while in office, violated the oath of office, failed to perform the duties prescribed by law, or have willfully misused or misappropriated public funds or property entrusted to their office.