Appellate court dismisses year-old TTAD suit
A state court of appeals, reaffirming a lower court decision, dismissed a defamation lawsuit involving three former Truckee-Tahoe Airport District board members.
Ex-TTAD Director William Chilcott’s suit – which included complaints of libel, slander, intentional interference with a business relationship and conspiracy – targeted former board members Tom Meadows and Tom Harrison for reading a statement into the record during the Sept. 26, 1995, TTAD board meeting.
The statements Chilcott found fault with were made as part of the former board members’ comments on the performance of ex-airport general manager Mary Catherine Tennant.
Tennant’s performance was under close scrutiny by the board, which had recently given her a poor performance rating. Harrison, Meadows and a fourth ex-board member, Dick Studer, who was named in the original suit but later settled with no admission of responsibility, had publicly supported Tennant and criticized Chilcott.
In addition to the statement of Sept. 26, 1995, Chilcott claimed the former board members made defamatory statements in a jointly authored letter to the editor in the Sierra Sun.
The case, filed in December 1995, was dismissed in Placer County Superior Court in Auburn in March 1996. Chilcott appealed the trial court’s decision at the state level in the 3rd District Court of Appeals.
Bob Cohune, attorney for Harrison and Meadows, said the appellate court reaffirmed the decision to dismiss the case, saying the statements made in September 1995 were protected under the state’s Ralph M. Brown Act.
“The statements made at the TTAD board meeting were relevant to the business of the board and the qualifications of a board member. These items are certainly of interest to the public and within the jurisdiction of the TTAD. Accordingly, the statements were privileged,” it states in the appellate court’s decision.
Also, after filing his complaint, Chilcott was responsible for establishing the probability of prevailing on the merits of the complaint, according to section 425.16 of the government code. Cohune said the appellate court decided Chilcott had no probability of prevailing at a trial.
The motion to dismiss at the appellate level was filed June 3.
Chilcott did not return calls to the Sierra Sun.
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