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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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