Former Davenport City Administrator Craig Malin has filed a libel lawsuit against the Quad-City Times, its parent company Lee Enterprises Inc., columnist Barb Ickes and former reporter Brian Wellner.
The 177-page petition filed last month in Scott County District Court also alleges that the defendants “intentionally and improperly” interfered with his contract as city administrator “by publishing a series of articles that contained false information or implications” about him.
That interference, according to the suit, caused former Mayor Bill Gluba to ask for his resignation and caused him to lose “the previous level of confidence and trust of the mayor and others in city government.”
The suit further alleges that the statements and omissions were made by the defendants with “actual malice or through a reckless disregard, or through negligence that constituted a form of defamation.”
Malin is seeking damages “in an amount necessary to compensate him for his losses to-date and for his continuing losses for salary, retirement, and other benefits pursuant to the contract,” as well as punitive damages “in an amount necessary to deter this type of conduct …”
He is asking for a jury trial.
As we reported, Malin’s 14-year tenure in Davenport ended in June 2015 after the city council voted 9-1 to approve a “succession, transition and separation” agreement. The agreement also required severance payments and other compensation that could have reached $310,000. The agreement also required that Malin release any legal claims against the city.
Days before the council vote, Gluba publicly asked that Malin and City Attorney Tom Warner resign or be fired. He later backed off his request that Warner be fired.
The Times reported that Gluba said Malin and Warner had not informed the council adequately about the implications of a development agreement related to the extension of Elmore Avenue near the site of a new land-based casino at Interstates 74 and 80.
Specifically, Gluba said the council was not made aware the city would be paying to grade the private Rhythm City Casino site before the council had approved the project.
Malin has maintained the city was not obligated to pay those costs.
Malin’s lawsuit, filed by Cedar Rapids attorneys Larry Thorson and Richard Pundt, states that the Times, Lee Enterprises, Ickes and Wellner published “objectively and knowingly false” articles between June 18, 2015, and June 29, 2015.
The suit further alleges that the defendants “bluntly, persistently, and nonsensically” opposed an open government initiative in the form of the now-defunct website, davenporttoday.com.
The suit claims that Malin suffered a loss of reputation, a reduction in salary, loss of retirement benefits and emotional distress from being separated from his wife and family in addition to the costs of maintaining two residences.
Attorney for the defendants, Bob Waterman, managing partner at Lane & Waterman LLP, responded to the filing of this lawsuit: “Mr. Malin’s lawsuit misstates the true facts, takes many others out of context, and overall lacks any merit under the law. His claims will be vigorously defended.”
Malin currently is the city manager in Seaside, California.