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Case against NCQC dismissed

By Staff, 08/6/18 11:25 AM

PRESCOTT – Tom Cooper, Ninth West Circuit Judge, rendered a summary judgment in favor of the Nevada County Quorum Court in a hearing Aug. 1.

The hearing was held in the Nevada County Courtroom, with most members of the NCQC present, along with Nevada County Judge Mark Glass and the plaintiff, Donnie McGuire. The suit was dropped against all members of the court except for George Smith, who was the sole defendant and was represented by Ralph Ohm.

The suit originated after McGuire, who with his brother, Nicky, and their business, M&M Towing, learned the county was looking for a road grader. They found one meeting the specifications needed and sold it to the county for $122,000. Smith looked into the situation and learned the grader had been purchased for $97,000.

Smith brought this to the court’s attention at its May 2017 meeting, saying a local business had bought the grader and sold it for a profit of $25,000, and encouraged the court to do a better job of due diligence in the future. At no point did Smith mention the name of the business, though he did suggest it would be nice if the business returned some of the money.

McGuire was in the audience. He stood up and announced the court was talking about him and his business. McGuire hired Justin Hurst to represent him in his suit against the QC, claiming he’d been defamed and his business had been harmed because of the situation.

Ohm, in his presentation to the court, said no member of the court ever mentioned McGuire or M&M Towing by name at any time until after McGuire spoke up. He said the court has three functions, with budgeting being the most important thing, adding Smith was concerned with how the county was spending money.

According to Ohm, Smith never libeled McGuire nor defamed M&M Towing, but acted within the scope of his authority as a justice of the peace by trying to be financially responsible. What was said during the meeting, he added, met the criteria of privileged communications.

Hurst, in his response, agreed most of the facts of the case weren’t in dispute, but argued Smith made defamatory statements in saying the court was given bad information and didn’t have all the facts at the time. He said Smith commented about the grader, not only in the meeting, but to the media and in social media as well. Hurst claimed Smith inferred M&M Towing and McGuire were price gouging with the inflated sale price and profit margin.

Ohm said the definition of defamation requires a false statement of facts, causes harm and must be considered on the whole with the words taken in their natural meaning. He added Smith used social media as a means to explain what had happened and said if anyone looked bad in the post, it was the county judge.

Cooper said there were no issues with the material facts, no defamatory statements were made and the defendant is qualified for immunity as is the county. He ruled in favor of the defendant, granting a summary judgment in the case.