Judge hears arguments on Blackham
vs. Mt. Pleasant defamation suit
Judge Wallace Lee has up to 60 days before ruling
By Doug Lowe
MANTI—Oral arguments in the case of Dave Blackham, the former mayor of Mt. Pleasant, against his old city and city council members were taken under advisement in 6th District Court on Jan. 29.
Judge Wallace Lee listened to both sides of the story and may deliberate for up to 60 days before ruling.
Blackham has sued Mt. Pleasant and several city council members alleging they have defamed him by reading false and misleading defamatory statements in public, and other misdeeds such as breach of confidentiality and breach of contract.
Judge Lee informed both lawyers they would each have 15 minutes to present their case, and another 5 minutes for rebuttal.
In arguing for the defense, Heather White, from the Salt Lake City law firm of Snow, Christensen and Martineau asserted that all 10 of Blackham’s causes of action should be dismissed because Utah’s governmental immunity statue protected both the city and its council members from such liability.
After her presentation, Judge Lee asked White to explain how governmental immunity could protect city council members from liability if they acted outside of a city council meeting without having officially voted to take such actions.
Blackham’s attorney, Steve Tycksen, of Tycksen and Shattuck in Draper, asserted that the questionable actions of the council members involved were not excused by governmental immunity because they had acted as individuals not as the official city council.
Judge Lee questioning of Tycksen focused mainly on how a breach of contract could exist when there was no official council meeting convened to consider Blackham’s resignation offer, and no vote was taken to accept and abide by that agreement. And, probing further, Lee asked Tycksen to explain in what ways Blackham had been defamed.
White, during her rebuttal time, responded to Tycksen’s defamation claims by asserting that the individual city council members were acting within the scope of the official capacities because they were responding to accusations of mismanagement of the city affairs.
During his rebuttal, Tycksen pointed out the offending letter, which had been signed by all council members, did not address any of Blackham’s concerns about mismanagement, but, instead, attacked him with false accusations and innuendo.