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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, January 12, 2019 1:00 am

Fire chief drops suit alleging defamation

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

St. Joseph Township Fire Chief David Ringer has agreed to drop a defamation lawsuit he filed against a former candidate for township trustee.

Ringer filed the lawsuit in May in Allen Circuit Court, alleging Carol Griffin defamed him and damaged his reputation in letters sent to officials in Ashley calling him “very dangerous” and a “dangerous man.”

Both sought election to the trustee post – he as a Republican and she as a Democrat. Ringer lost in a primary to incumbent Sarah Gnagy, and Griffin lost to Gnagy in the general election in November.

Judge Thomas Felts filed paperwork last month saying the case could be tossed if Ringer didn't file documents by Dec. 27 – or appear this week in court – with reasons why the lawsuit should not be dismissed.

Paperwork filed Thursday by lawyers for Ringer and Griffin call for the case to be dismissed without prejudice, which means it can be reopened in the future.

Indiana trial rules allow judges to consider dismissing civil cases when no action has been taken for 60 days.

The last filing in the case had come in late July, when Ringer responded to a counterclaim from Griffin calling allegations in the lawsuit “frivolous, unreasonable or groundless.”

Ringer claimed Griffin, whose campaign included efforts to discredit the fire chief, sent the letters – which were not signed – to Ashley, where he is a volunteer reserve police officer. Griffin denied the allegations.

It's not clear whether Griffin will seek to move forward with the counterclaim, but she said in an email she will attend a court hearing scheduled Jan. 23.

“At this hearing I will request that David Ringer be responsible for paying all of my attorney fees related to his frivolous suit and the counterclaim based on the fact that I would not have incurred these costs had it not been for this frivolous suit, and I am entitled to be made whole with respect (to) the costs incurred in defending myself,” she said. Griffin said she also will seek “all other relief that is proper.”

mleblanc@jg.net