Hamilton County chief deputy treasurer Kim Good is pursuing defamation charges against a former co-worker who claimed Good engaged in nepotism and fired her to cover it up.
Good’s attorney announced the lawsuit Monday.
Susan Byer, a former bankruptcy lender clerk with the county, filed a lawsuit in November 2018 claiming she was fired for pointing out alleged criminal activity in the treasurer’s office. Byer said senior staff ran afoul of the law by allowing employees to waive penalties on late property-tax payments for themselves and their family members.
In response, Good filed a defamation suit last week that cites claims made by Byer in three articles published by The Indianapolis Star and other media between November 2018 and April 2019 as examples of “willfully false and misleading” information.
Mario Massillamany, a managing partner with Massillamany Jeter & Carson in Fishers who represents Byer, said the statements were made with malice toward Good because she and Byer both plan to run for Hamilton County Treasurer this year.
“(Byer) made these criminal allegations against Kim Good to try and tarnish her reputation when she would be running against her in the May primary,” Massillamany said. “People just can’t use these types of tactics to smear and allege criminal activity to try and win an election.”
Good’s filing states Byer was “frequently and consistently disciplined” between July 2017 and March 2018 for violating office policies, working unauthorized overtime, disobeying supervisor orders, negligently handling funds, falsifying tax records and more.
Tim Stoesz, an attorney with Westfield-based Stoesz & Stoesz that’s representing Byer, provided a statement from his client that also paints the litigation as political.
“This is a political lawsuit filed by a career politician and her political consultant lawyer,” Byer’s written statement said. “Hamilton County voters are tired of this type of political games and deserve better.”
Good’s suit references Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton’s investigation into the matter. Eaton was appointed special prosecutor to look into the case.
Eaton said in his December report that there was insufficient evidence to charge employees in the treasurer’s office, in part because the county’s records are “incomplete.” Even if there had been proof, Eaton continued, there is “no provision in Indiana criminal law that makes this specific conduct a crime.”
Also in the report is Eaton’s conclusion that “there is no evidence that any employee of the Hamilton County Treasurer’s Office was intimidated, harassed, or otherwise the victim of a criminal act.”
Stoesz claims that on June 28, 2017, Good told all of the employees of the Hamilton County Treasurer’s Office that waiving late fees for taxpayers was a felony. He said Eaton found Good’s parents did have their payments processed late, and their late fees were waived seven times since 2010.
He said, last week, that four longtime employees testified to that under oath.
“For Ms. Good to prevail in her lawsuit, she must show that Susan spoke out in reckless disregard of the truth. Testimony under oath already exists that shows that did not happen.”