ASHLAND The city of Ashland said the Kentucky League of Cities paid for the city’s legal costs stemming from a lawsuit filed by two municipal employees against a former restaurant owner.
City Economic Development Director Chris Pullem and police Sgt. Brain Clark sued Robert Batchelor for defamation after he made a lengthy Facebook post accusing both men of criminal activity. A two-day trial that ended Tuesday resulted in a verdict against Batchelor. Pullem was awarded $75,000 in damages and Clark was awarded $750.
City Attorney James Moore said the city initially agreed to pay $5,000 to get the litigation started. Moore was a private attorney at the time, and he did the initial legal work on the case.
Moore was later named city attorney, prompting attorney Scott Sennett to take over the litigation. Moore said the city also determined that the municipality would not pay more money to fund the lawsuit filed by Pullem and Clark.
“The total amount paid by the city was attorney fees of $5,000 and costs of $347.20,” said Moore.
Batchelor eventually countersued Pullem, Clark and the city, seeking damages for alleged violations of his First Amendment Rights and for retaliating against him.
“This counterclaim was defended on behalf of the city and its employees through the city’s liability insurer, the Kentucky League of Cities,” said Moore.
The Kentucky League of Cities stepped in to cover the attorney fees for the counterclaim.
The counterclaim against Pullem, Clark and the city was dismissed via summary judgment. The case of Pullem and Clark against Batchelor for defamation continued, though, with Sennett as their private counsel.
Pullem and Clark were responsible for paying Sennett’s fees.
“Pullem and Clark made their own arrangements for fees for the trial of their individual claims with Mr. Sennett,” Moore said in an email response to questions from The Daily Independent.
“Should Mr. Batchelor choose to appeal the dismissal of his counterclaim, the Kentucky League of Cities will once again be paying the fees of Mr. Sennett to handle the appeal,” Moore wrote.