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I am the Executive Director of a non-profit that has been…

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Hi! I am the Executive...
Hi! I am the Executive Director of a non-profit that has been the subject of some slanderous language by County Board officials in public meetings...calling our Agency a "ponzi scheme" among many other awful things, and stating very derogatory things about me personally. I advised the Chairman of the Board that he should "muzzle" his board members because I am inclined to file a defamation suit if they do not quit. The Chairman said he would do nothing, and even if he did, it would not yield the result I was looking for. In a recent meeting (July 3rd) portions of a committee meeting of record were deleted. These portions I believe had derogatory statements about myself and the Agency. Can you tell me what legal ramifications there are for a public official ordering a public record to be modified or destroyed?
Submitted: 6 months ago.Category: Criminal Law
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7/31/2017
Criminal Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 6 months ago
Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 8,385
Experience: Licensed to practice before state and federal court
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Hello! I am a licensed attorney, admitted to practice in state and federal court. I have a nearly 100% satisfaction rating so all that means is that you can count on me to help today. Do you mind if I take a moment to review your question?

Please keep in mind that our conversation does not include an attorney-client relationship and this is for general information purposes only. Additionally, Most people believe a phone call is the easiest and most efficient way to handle problems. Accordingly, you will receive an automatic phone call request. If you would like a phone call, please click “Accept” when prompted.

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
I am trying to collect information between meetings, so if you could shoot me a quick response, I would really appreciate it. I do have an audio file of one of the recent rants and the specific meeting where portions of the record were deleted after the meeting was called to order.
Criminal Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 6 months ago

Great. one moment while I review your situation and prepare a response.

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Criminal Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 6 months ago

First, let me help you with an understanding of defamation so you can use that going forward. Defamation is basically a false and defamatory statement, published to a third party, that causes harm (usually a lessened reputation in the community, lost business opportunity, or other harms as the facts dictate.)

Although I don't know the full extent of what was the supposed defamatory statement, run the alleged statements through that analysis to see if it fits.

If it does, then the other party may have some defenses. Here are the typical defenses in a defamation case:

(1) Legislative Privilege - Meaning the statement was made in a legislative proceeding

(2) Judicial Privilege - any participant in a judicial proceeding the absolute privilege to utter defamatory statements

(3) Executive Privilege - privilege affords an absolute privilege to high ranking executive officers of state and federal governments when acting within the scope of their discretionary duties

(4) Domestic Privilege - affords a spouse the absolute privilege to make defamatory statements about a third person to their spouse.

(5) Truth - if the statements you made were true, then this is a defense as well

(6) Opinion - courts have ruled that the opinion defense is one where if you provide your opinion, then a defamation charge will not stand.

As far as the destruction of records, generally, “unless otherwise provided by law, with the approval of the legislative body by resolution and the written consent of the city attorney, the head of a city department may destroy any city record, document, instrument, book or paper, under his charge, without making a copy thereof, after the same is no longer required.”

So, I don't have enough time to look up the exact statue in Illinois, but usually a public official cannot destroy a public record unless they have some sort of authority to do so. There may be some provision in your city, county, or state that allows them to do so under limited situations, but generally they cannot.

Even then, if you decide to move forward with a difinition lawsuit, you can always request through discovery that they reproduce this document.

Follow up questions are free, so please feel free to ask away. You can also click here in the future to request me individually. If you don’t have any additional questions, were you satisfied with my service today?

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Our business as a non-profit is to support certain social services, but we are a private not for profit corporation. Over the last 10 years, we have not had a financial audit finding, and no indication that we are anything less than stellar in our fiscal management. In 10+ years we have not had a grant that has been in re-competition (indication that there are problems) or any other monitoring event that required sanctions or disqualification. We are monitored by 6+ state and federal agencies as well as many private foundations and donors and have no negative marks of significance. I know none of the aforementioned defenses apply, and specifically the "truth" in any demonstrative fashion. I really don't want to wrangle in a civil defamation suit, but I would like to see the offending public official removed from his post on the committee. Is that a vehicle for resolution to my problem? Who do I need to contact? The State's Attorney actually represents the County Board in our County and holds the ethics consulting position as required by the state. If not him....who can investigate the destruction of public records matter?
Criminal Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 6 months ago

the vehicle for resolution of getting the person removed would probably have to depend on your County's specific procedures regarding removal of a public official. However, usually the public official needs to be removed if they are engaging form of taking bribes from people.g in illegal or unethical behavior according to your state’s constitution. Usually, the unethical behavior is in the form of taking bribes from people. Because I don't practice in your jurisdiction, I wouldn't be able to tell you something so specific. However, if you click here you can see what your state’s elected official guidebook says. It’s long, but it may be worth it. Or somehow failing to disclose some business interest that they have. As far as the destruction of public records matter, you may be able to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to have those records provided to you. FOIA Is typically the vehicle that many people use to get reference that of all of a sudden disappeared from the public eye. Did you have any other questions for me?

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Criminal Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 6 months ago

Hello, it’s been awhile since we connected so I wanted to check in with you to see if you had any further questions or if there is anything else I can assist you with today. Please reply here and let me know. Thank you.

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