Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Gilliam's lawsuit concluded against Franklin Fire District No. 3

Former District No. 3 Commissioner Chairman Michael Gilliam's lawsuit against the Franklin Township (Somerset County) Fire District, Community and East Franklin Fire Departments and several individually named defendants is over.  The upshot is that Judge Yolanda Ciccone dismissed the lawsuit against Community, East Franklin, and the District but refused to dismiss it against individual defendants Douglas Krushinski, Daniel Krushinski, Christopher Fischer, Richard Ries and Herman Calvo.  Shortly after Judge Ciccone's ruling, all of the individual defendants entered into some sort of settlement agreement with Gilliam.

For those who are interested in reviewing all the accusations made by all sides, as well as for those who would like to learn more about defamation law, especially as it applies to public figures, I have uploaded the following documents to the Internet.

Using the Open Public Records Act, I have tried to get copies of the settlement agreements between Gilliam and the individual defendants.  District No. 3 Records Custodian Sherrod Middleton denied my request for those settlement agreements for two reasons.  First, Middleton reported that the agreements had not yet been reduced to writing. Second, he said that "since the District and the Fire Company were dismissed from the litigation, it is unlikely that the District will ever be in possession of a document between private parties."

I have challenged Middleton's characterization of the individual defendants as being "private parties" and have submitted a supplemental OPRA request for several records.  In my request, submitted today, I have asked for documents that show whether the individual defendants paid any money out-of-pocket for either the defense or settlement of Gilliam's lawsuit.  It seems to me that the individual defendants can legitimately be characterized as "private parties" only to the extent that they, as opposed to the District or its insurer, contributed toward the lawsuit's defense and settlement.