By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — Three defendants in the libel suit filed by Forest Park Mayor David Lockhart have filed an answer to the complaint in Clayton County State Court, denying all the allegations.
Forest Park Public Works Director Mike Gippert and residents Lenora Dove and Joy Trammell Church deny libeling Lockhart or writing the two-page anonymous missive that led to the suit.
Lockhart filed suit June 5, naming the two women. He added Gippert the following week after Gippert defended the women to the Clayton News-Daily.
Gippert told the Clayton News Daily that Lockhart's suit is "frivolous" and said he is the one who provided the anonymous two-page document to residents Church and Dove. Gippert said the document had been left on his front porch at the end of May,
Lockhart contends in the amendment to the suit that the mere sharing of the information with the women, who have not been proven to be the authors, constitutes libel on Gippert's part.
"Accordingly, Mike Gippert's reported act of 'sharing' a copy of the defamatory statements with Defendants Church and Dove is publication within the meaning of (Georgia law)," stated the amendment.
Lockhart denied the entire contents of the document, which was left outside City Hall prior to the June 3 City Council meeting. Surveillance cameras reportedly caught the two women walking up with the box of copies, placing it on a brick planter and taping a sign to the box reading "Take one." A resident called Lockhart's attention to the document during the meeting.
He appeared shocked and denounced the letter.
"Lies and cowardice," he said during the meeting. "You will not say you saw it and heard it because they were never spoken. To the author of this trash, you are a coward and a liar because none of it is true. This is nothing but trash."
The document touches on several allegations including that Lockhart has met with representatives of Galardi Enterprises to discuss changing the city's ordinance to allow strip clubs to re-open, that Lockhart ordered City Manager John Parker to fire Gippert because Lockhart doesn't approve of recycling or the city's "going green" programs and that Lockhart used a racial slur during the Morrow event.
Also, Lockhart specifically takes issue with a paragraph alleging he used a racial slur in a conversation with another elected official during the National Day of Prayer breakfast at the National Archives.
Lockhart has declined to comment on the suit, saying it speaks for itself.