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COA rules against former Junior Achievement boss in defamation suit

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that a central Indiana organization and its president did not defame the former president of Junior Achievement of Central Indiana or tortiously interfere with a business relationship.

Jeffrey Miller and his wife, Cynthia, sued numerous parties in March 2010, including the Central Indiana Community Foundation Inc. and Brian Payne. Miller argued in part that Payne defamed him and caused him to not be offered a job with the city of Indianapolis.

The allegations are based on conversation Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s former chief-of staff, Chris Cotterill, had with Payne March 9, 2010, at a meeting about the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Cotterill had been in discussions with Miller about any potential jobs in the city’s office, but nothing had been offered.

Cotterill wanted to speak with Payne to confirm information his wife told him about the Junior Achievement of Central Indiana being the subject of an audit. Miller served as president of JACI from 1994 until he retired in 2008. He also served as president of JACI’s foundation, known as Experiential Learning and Entrepreneurship Federation until February 2010.

The construction of an Ivy Tech culinary project initiated during Miller’s time as JACI president came to a halt in early 2010 after the Glick Fund at Central Indiana Community Foundation, stopped paying on a $2 million grant, pending an audit.

During the brief March 2010 discussion, Payne confirmed to Cotterill that CICF was in the process of auditing JACI due to the Glicks’ concerns of money being spent in ways not consistent with the terms of the grant, misappropriation of funds, or money moving around in an improper manner. Cotterill, however, testified during his deposition that Payne never told him that Miller was the one who may have misappropriated funds or moved money around improperly.

At the time of this conversation, there was an audit ongoing, so the statements were true. There is no evidence that Payne made any comments regarding Miller that could be considered defamatory or that Payne invaded Miller’s privacy by placing him in a false light, the appeals court held in Jeffrey M. Miller and Cynthia S. Miller v. Central Indiana Community Foundation, Inc., and Brian Payne, 49A04-1309-PL-451.

The designated evidence also shows that Payne did not commit any unjustified interference with an alleged business relationship between the city of Indianapolis and Miller. Payne did not seek out Cotterill; it was Cotterrill who wanted to verify the information his wife had told him. Also, Cotterill had concerns prior to learning of the audit that Miller was telling people that he would be working for the mayor before any employment offer had been extended. No offer was ever made.

The Millers have sued 17 parties over comments – both spoken and written – that they claim are defamatory. In April, the Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for Federal Express Corp. and the 500 Festival Inc.

Some of those comments come from anonymous commenters on news websites and message boards.  The action involving those defendants was an issue of first impression for the courts.
 

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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