A lawsuit is pending against the levy committee that advocated passage of a Boardman police levy in August 2011, with the plaintiffs claiming their reputation was damaged by campaign literature.
Atty. James Gentile filed the civil case in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on behalf of Larry Barnes and Lisa Barnes, of 7005 Lockwood Blvd., and summonses were mailed this week to defendants, who call the suit “an insult to law-abiding citizens of Boardman.”
The lawsuit alleges that the Barneses ’ reputation was damaged when the Boardman Coalition Against Crime, the police levy committee, printed materials with the title “Meet Your Neighbors” and displayed the mug shots of two criminals from Boardman.
It also contained text that said, in part, “Criminals are settling in our neighborhoods, running drug houses, and committing burglaries and robberies.” One of the mug shots in the mailer was identified as “R. Barnes” of “Lockwood Blvd. in Boardman,” according to the lawsuit.
It refers to Robert Barnes, 31, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of robbery and two counts of aggravated robbery and kidnapping.
He is the son of Larry Barnes and brother of Lisa Barnes, Gentile said.
The Vindicator checked online court records for Robert Barnes and found that his address was listed two ways: The Mahoning County Justice Center or 7005 Lockwood Blvd. in Boardman.
“It’s a privacy case. ...This is not what you would characterize as a defamation case. Their conduct put my people in a false light,” said Gentile, who also represented Robert Barnes during criminal proceedings.
The suit filings state that although the campaign materials did not list the street number, “the plaintiffs’ address is well-known to the public. Defendants’ only goal was to get the police levy passed at any cost, including damaging the reputation of law-abiding citizens of the community.”
George Farris, a member of the Boardman Coalition Against Crime, defended the levy committee.
“This suit is an insult to law-abiding citizens in Boardman. The story of Robert Barnes’ crimes was blasted all over TV, newspapers and online. Our little mailer came out after and had no details,” Farris said.
“It never mentioned Larry Barnes, so how can it damage his reputation? I do feel bad for Mr. Barnes. But if his reputation was damaged, it was damaged by his son, not our community volunteers,” he continued.
Farris is chief executive of Farris Marketing, which also is a defendant in the lawsuit. Others named as defendants are “United Against Crime,” which was a slogan used by the Boardman Coalition Against Crime on its signs; the Mahoning County Board of Elections, which was listed as the return address for some materials; and Jane and John Doe entities, which Farris said he believes refers to everyone who displayed the “Meet Your Neighbors” materials.
The suit demands a jury trial, and the plaintiffs are seeking more than $25,000.