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Author Topic: Mr Rothrock will win again  (Read 1150 times)
PBSIAT
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« on: July 03, 2019, 06:18:13 PM »

After Mr Rothrock beat Jack Scoundrel and the city a few years ago over hardee plank you would think they would leave him alone. NO! Now Mr Rothrock is suing and will win for Jack and the city employees slandering his name when he had nothing to do with Mark Mercer depositing campaign signs last year. Go get 'me Mr Rothrock.
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Marty Tennant
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« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2019, 07:39:52 PM »

Article and copy of lawsuit here:

http://gabnewsonline.com/lawsuit-man-says-he-was-falsely-accused-during-political-sign-case-in-p3054-90.htm
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Notice:  All posts made by me are my OPINION.  I am not responsible for any comments by others!  The Citizens' Report is provided as a public service to the citizens of Georgetown County for them to report and comment on the news.
IWCCTTT
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« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2019, 01:02:37 PM »

I really wish you had not given Scott credit for wrting about it. But at least he did write something. Unlike the Georgetown Times who will never cover it and let people know what is really going on in this town. One thing for sure the Rothrocks made sure old Black Jack didn't get re-elected.
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JW
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« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2019, 12:49:39 PM »

So here we go again. Steve will get a nice check from the city for what they did to him this time and nothing will happen to Jack Scovile and the others who used their position to screw with him. Why is there never any punishment for people like Jack and his short buddy Paige Sawyer? They have cost the taxpayers tons of money over the years. Something should be done.
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Tom Rubillo
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« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2019, 11:35:49 AM »

Will the city pay to defend the ex-mayor and ex-adminstrator or settle cases against them or are they on their own in this one?
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PBSIAT
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« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2019, 01:34:42 PM »

Now that would be justice if Jack has to pay to defend himself. I'm no lawyer but can Steve sue him as a individual and make him pay. For his defense rather than the taxpayer having to fund it?
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Tom Rubillo
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« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2019, 04:20:00 PM »

Since the city is self-insured.  It does not buy liability insurance.  It pays all costs, expenses, settlement amounts or judgments, relying on the Municipal Association's risk management team (SMIRF) to administer claims and handle lawsuits against it.  While called "premiums," the amounts paid to SMIRF each year are, dollar for dollar, all the costs, fees, expenses, etc. that arise out of the cases SMIRF handles for the city, plus a management fee.  So every cent paid in connection with this suit will ultimately come from the pockets of taxpayers.  That being the case, the City Council has a very strong voice in deciding how the tax dollars it collects are spent.

Liability insurance typically does not cover losses arising out of intentional acts.  Coverage for those is almost always specifically excluded from ordinary insurance policies.  The agreement between SMIRF, while not an insurance policy, contains many of the same provisions, including an exclusion for intentional acts.  So there is a legitimate coverage question in this instance, at least as to the defamation claim.  Defamation -- slander -- is an intentional act.  That being the case, at the very least it is reasonable to expect that a "reservation of rights letter" will be sent to the ex-mayor and ex-administrator saying, in effect, that even if it provides them with a defense, it won't pay anything to either settle the case  or any judgment against them.  City Council can insist that, at a minimum, that SMIRF do that.

As far as the alleged civil rights violation, the US Supreme Court ruled many years ago that municipalities are not liable for those unless they are the result of an official policy or on-going practice.  The allegations in this case, on the other hand, raises questions of an isolated incident, not a pattern, policy or practice claim.  The city, under those circumstances, has a strong defense in that regard.  (In my view, the "class of one" claim of a civil rights violation against the city, while it might pass muster against the two individual actors, doesn't hold much water vis-a-vis the city, but my reason for that would take too long to explain here.)  Anyway Since the acts complained of involved an alleged personal vendetta by two individuals, liability for those would typically fall on the individual actors, not the city.  So there's at least the potential of conflicting interests in the defense available to the city on the civil rights claim and the position of the individual defendants who were not acting in any legitimate "official capacity," but did whatever they did strictly on their own  Without getting into details here, there is an apparent conflict between the defense posture of the chief of police ("I was just following orders and harbored no malice") and that of the other two defendants who are alleged to have been advancing a personal, vindictive agenda.  That, and again, the entire episode has absolutely nothing to do with the official business of the city, so the city really shouldn't have any liability.  It is alleged to have arisen entirely out of the reaction of two individuals to the outcome of an election.  Under those circumstances, I'm of the view that the city shouldn't be expected to pay to defend or indemnify those two individuals, but only to defend itself. 

There are motions that can be made to disqualify counsel who appear on behalf of multiple defendants based on the existence of conflicts of interest.  Whether those are pressed or not is a decision that is entirely up to opposing counsel.  The City Council should be heard about that too.  Everyone needs to put aside any personal feelings, rivalries, biases or friendships that might exist in these circumstances, look closely at the potential conflicts of interest and seek out solid, unbiased advice from their respective legal counsel.

Good luck to both Mayor Barber and his new, quite experienced and capable City Administrator in dealing with this mess.  And welcome to Georgetown Madame Administrator.
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Tom Rubillo
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« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2019, 09:52:49 AM »

Among the conflicting interests in this case are the following:    (1) This case has nothing to do with the on-going conduct of the on-going business of the city.  Instead, it arises out of the personal interests of the individual participants in the outcome of an election.  In that sense, it is entirely a personal dispute, not one affecting the rights or interests of the taxpayers.  To the contrary, to the extent that the taxpayers had any interest or opinion in that election, they expressed their views at the polling place when they cast their ballots.  That some dispute has arisen over the conduct of individuals regarding that campaign after it was over and decided has, therefore, absolutely nothing to do with the rights and interests of the taxpayers.  This fact notwithstanding, those taxpayers now may be called upon to absorb some expense or cost because of this personal dispute.  This is, in my view, unfair and creates very direct conflict in interests between the city and the individual defendants -- the ex-mayor and the ex-administrator. 

  (2) From reading between the lines of the complaint in the case and as I recall the initial news accounts of this incident at the time, the ex-mayor denied having any involvement in the incident that is at the heart of the controversy, namely the arrest and prosecution of the man who returned the campaign signs.  If that is the case, the ex-administrator may be laying directly under the wheels of the bus, put there by any denial of involvement by the ex-mayor.  What the ex-mayor knew, when he knew it and what, if anything, he said at the time will, therefore, likely be at issue.  To the extent that his testimony differs from that of the ex-administrator, a very direct conflict of the legal and financial interests of the ex-mayor and the ex-administrator would arise. 

  (3) The chief of police has been named as a defendant.  Like the city, he is something of a bystander in the case.  He had no stake in the outcome of the election and, so far as is known, harbored no animus against anyone.  Instead, the department he heads was called on to make an arrest by the man who was then above him in the chain of command, the now ex-city administrator.  To the extent that the chief has been sued personally, his defense othat he bore no malice against anyone but was simplyf "following orders" separates him from the other defendants, particularly where it comes to the "class of one" allegations complaining of disparate treatment.  To the extent that he is being sued in his "official capacity," like the city he enjoys immunity from claims of civil rights violations for "isolated incidents" like this one.  When it comes to civil rights violations, the city is only liable for those that arise out of on-going patterns, practices or official policies.  The US Supreme Court said that nearly a half century ago.  What all this means is that the city and the chief are aligned in their legal positions here, there is a direct conflict in the defense posture of the chief/city vs. the two ex-officials who are alleged to have been acting out of personal spite or malice.

    This, it can be fairly said, is the sort of mess everyone finds themselves in when individuals are engaging in some sort of vendetta that adversely impacts the entire community.   Be that as it may, one thing seems pretty clear and certain here.  No one lawyer can fairly represent each of these potentially competing defenses and conflicting interests.  That, any the taxpayers certainly should not be called on to foot the very hefty bill involved in resolving this dispute. 
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PBSIAT
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« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2019, 10:48:30 AM »

And the Georgetown waste of my Times will not cover this. And I hope Mr Rothrock drags Jack Scoundrel around for a long time with this one.
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Tom Rubillo
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« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2019, 05:29:21 PM »

According to GAB News, the city's former administrator has filed a counterclaim against Steve Rothrock, claiming that Rothrock's accusations were slanderous and caused the administrator to lose his job.  That part was pretty predictable.  What is a little odd is that he is being represented by an attorney, Doug Baxter, who has previously represented the city in lawsuits in which the city has been sued.  Doug Baxter's offices are in Myrtle Beach.  He has been (and may still be) local the attorney for SMIRF.  SMIRF is not a licensed insurance company.  It is an arm of the Municipal Association set up to administer claims against towns and cities who are self-insured.  As my earlier posting indicates, I am of the opinion that the city really has no liability in this case.  Whatever the former administrator did here, he did on his own.  It had nothing to do with his duties as administrator.  His behavior was "ultra vires" -- outside of the scope of his office.  That's my view of it anyway.  So I really don't understand why an attorney associated with SMIRF would be doing filing a counterclaim for the administrator, unless, perhaps, he has done so under a "reservation of rights" (explained in an earlier posting),  Given all the potential conflicting interests running around this case (see earlier comments in this posting and the one entitled "Is or may be liable"), Doug's appearance on behalf of the former administrator is curious.  Be all of that as it may, the games have begun.  Clemson v. Alabama in the courtroom. Sweeney v. Saban.  I trust that GAB News will stay in its seat at the 50 yard line. 
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Marty Tennant
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« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2019, 10:13:50 AM »

What a mess. I read this stuff and think about the crazy legal crap I was involved in with the city.

There's just too much drama in Georgetown for a City this size.

Maybe with some longtime players gone from the scene, things will settle down around here.

We can only hope.
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Notice:  All posts made by me are my OPINION.  I am not responsible for any comments by others!  The Citizens' Report is provided as a public service to the citizens of Georgetown County for them to report and comment on the news.
Lee Padgett
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« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2019, 02:36:13 PM »

I haven't checked in for quite some time and catching up has been interesting and enlightening. One thing to point out about Gardner and counter claim, he has his own attorney, Gene Connell. Who I am assuming is working with Baxter, SMIRF attorney, hand in hand in the counter claim. Perhaps Tom can answer the following questions: If Gardner sees that he needs separate council, does that indicate he is aware of his potential liability here? If having separate council for a counter suit and filing a personal claim, why should the City ie Taxpayers have to pay Baxter to be part of a personal suit by the former admin? Does Gardner's filing of a counter claim at this point and time not have the potential to run into issues with the City's defense strategy, should Paul have not waited for mediation etc to counter sue?
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"The death of objectivism and small government can be attributed to emotional politics." Liberty Laura
Tom Rubillo
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« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2019, 03:54:44 PM »

Responding to Lee's questions:  Gardner having separate counsel to pursue his counterclaim suggests that SMIRF is involved under a "reservation of rights"--a letter saying while they'll defend because they may end up with a contractual obligation to do so, they will not indemnify Gardner in the event there is a judgment against him.  These sorts of letters are sent because there are two contractual obligations involved in any ordinary insurance contract.  (It bears reiterating here that the city is self-insured and SMIRF is NOT an insurance company, but only a claims administrator.  This fact notwithstanding, its contract to manage claims against the city has many provisions that mirror ordinary liability insurance policies.)  But back to the point:  The two major obligations under any insurance contract (and the SMIRF contract with the city) are (a) to defend and (b) to indemnify or, put another way, pay judgments or settle the case.  These duties are separate and independent.  The duty to defend is stronger than the duty to indemnify.  If there is ANY chance that liability could result, a defense must be mounted.  The City of Hartsville sued SMIRF over that in federal court in Florence and had its hat handed to it, so it is hypersensitive.  But just because it may be  obligated to defend, that does not include bringing any counterclaims.  That's why Gardner hired separate counsel.  Gene Connell would be in charge of that.  Doug Baxter, representing SMIRF, would coordinate with Connell, but has to be careful.  As far as the city is concerned, it has a very arguable defense that Gardner was not operating in his official capacity or any official way, but was doing what his did on his own.  As I recall, former mayor Scoville was quoted in the press at the time of the initial incident that he --Scoville --had nothing to do with the situation, either individually or in any official capacity.   If my memory is correct, Scoville's contemporaneous statement in that regard would give rise to the city's "ultra vires" defense as well as an absolute defense for Scoville, his being a "SODDI" defense ("some other dude did it"). Those sorts of facts -- evidence giving rise to the notion that Gardner did it on his own -- is called an "ultra vires" defense.  Doug Baxter should be at least considering raising that defense on behalf of the city (or have another lawyer for the city raise it independently). Again, if my memory of the situation is correct, former mayor Scoville would be wise to raise the matter in his own personal defense too, at least by insisting that SMIRF raise it and/or by hiring separate counsel to raise it on his own behalf.  It is all very tricky.  I think I laid out all the potential conflicts of interests between the various defendants in previous posts, either in this line of posts or under the "Is or may be liable" posting that is associated with this one. 

When it comes to money, personal friendships can get flattened pretty quickly when former friends start to throw one another under the wheels of a bus.

The odd part here is that it was the inclusion of the city and the chief of police as a defendants rather than just suing Gardner individually that got SMIRF in the first place. is what draws SMIRF into the case.  Had the city and the police chief not been named, SMIRF could have sat on the sidelines and forced Gardner to sue SMIRF to get its help.  That would have put all the financial pressure on him at the outset.  As it stands now, his personal attorney has less work to do (since SMIRF is carrying half the load) and, perhaps, is doing the counterclaim on a contingent fee where he gets paid a percentage (maybe as much as half) only if the counterclaim prevails.

I'm of the view that, in the end of it all, the city has no liability in the case.  There is an old US Supreme Court case -- Monell v. NYC Department of Social Services== that holds that municipalities are not liable for isolated civil rights violations under 42 USC 1983, but only for violations that result from ongoing patterns, policies or practices which are themselves on-going or routine.  No matter what you might think of this incident, it was "isolated" and not part of any on-going policy, practice or procedure.  As far as the "class of one" allegations in the plaintiff's complaint, I have a different view, but that is all surely going to be addressed by a pretrial motion to dismiss the federal claims and remand the case to state court where is probably belonged in the first place. 

I know it all sounds pretty technical and complicated, but that's what the law is all about.  There are no "technicalities."  There is just the law.  Keeping track of all the twists and turns involved is not the job of the clients.  It is the lawyers' who have to do that, develop strategies and make decisions that, ultimately, have a very direct bearing on the outcome of cases.  That's what they get the big bucks for.   

Interesting, isn't it?
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Lee Padgett
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« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2019, 05:09:21 PM »

Thanks for further clarifying the muddy waters. I assume, as I have tried to stay away from this even tho I jumped out of the vehicle to take the pictures, the thought process in the suit was to name everyone and let the courts sort out who bears any blame/responsibility and give everyone reason to put the blame where it belongs. I guess much like Scoville and his SODDI defense this could lead people to talk if malfeasance was at play. Who knows! Time to sit back and watch the fireworks.
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"The death of objectivism and small government can be attributed to emotional politics." Liberty Laura
Tom Rubillo
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« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2019, 10:44:34 AM »

Refrigerator Perry played for Clemson.  He was a huge defensive lineman.  The legend about him is that he used to scoop up the entire opposing offense in his arms and then start to throw them out one by one until he found the guy who was carrying the ball.  That muscle bound, big and heavy handed approach works in football.  Problem is though, this isn't football.  It is more like brain surgery, requiring a steady, delicate hand guided by a skilled and experienced surgeon.  Each strategic decision --from the choice of a whether to sue in a federal or state forum, to the choice of who to sue and who with knowledge is merely a witness, to the choice of what "causes of action" to assert, to which facts to emphasize in the complaint, to how to respond to any counterclaims, to what information or documents to seek by way of discovery requests, to who to subpoena and depose and what to ask each prospective witness, to what pretrial motions to make or oppose, to what facts to emphasize in written motions and the pretrial brief, to methods for screening and selecting prospective jurors, to scripting opening statements, to deciding the order of witnesses and the presentation of evidence, to crafting closing statements, to making post trial motions, etc, etc., etc.-- each decision carries with it the potential for positive or negative consequences that need to be carefully thought through before each decision is made.  Again, litigation isn't football.  It is much more like brain surgery than football.  While clients involved in the litigation always must be kept abreast of everything that is going on and their opinions carefully considered, lawyers always have to keep in mind that clients are in the same position as a patient laying on an operating table.  While their best interests and welfare are the primary consideration, they not in a position where it is wise to let them put their hands on the surgical implements,  At the risk of repeating myself, the same is true about the tools of litigation.  While I may be entirely wrong (and hope I am) what Lee briefly described sounds a lot like the Refrigerator Perry approach.  I hope not.  The continuation of this conflict will be expensive for everyone.  There may be no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  In football, somebody wins and somebody loses.  In court, everybody involved in a case can end up losing, one way or another.  That's my two cents worth, anyway, for whatever it is worth.   
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