A federal lawsuit filed earlier this year against the Board of County Commissioners and three former and current commissioners individually was withdrawn last week.
Marie Mattox, the attorney for the political action committee Citizens Improving Gulf County and its president Jim Garth filed the motions with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District in Florida.
The filings announce the withdrawal of the lawsuit.
The case was subsequently dismissed with prejudice, meaning the same claims against the same individuals and the BOCC can not be re-filed.
“I am pleased the matter has been resolved in the favor of the county,” said county attorney Jeremy Novak.
County Commissioners Warren Yeager and Carmen McLemore were also defendants in the lawsuit, as was. former commissioner Bill Williams.
“I could have a lot of comment, but I have tried to take the high road through all this and I think I will stay with that,” Yeager said. “(The outcome) is what it is.”
Allegations against a Port St. Joe citizen, Lois aka Christine or Christy McElroy, were also dismissed.
The filings by Maddox indicate a defamation suit could be filed against McElroy in state court.
“This has been an expensive and painful process,” McElroy said, noting she had spent $11,000 in attorney’s fees. “I’m just one girl with a voice exercising her First Amendment rights.”
McElroy said she would also pursue a public accounting of how much the county and commissioners spent in defending what she called “baseless claims.”
The withdrawal stems from a defense permitted all elected officials: legislative immunity.
Legislative immunity provides free speech immunity for words and actions taken by elected officials during the course of “legislative” debate, provided the words and actions do not constitute criminality.
The immunity prohibits elected officials from being held liable for actions or words during the course of public meetings. Forty-three states have such provisions in law.
The lawsuit alleged that the BOCC, Yeager, McLemore and Williams abused their power and illegally retaliated during public meetings against the PAC and Garth for exercising protected First Amendment rights.
The lawsuit alleged McElroy coordinated with the BOCC in the attacks.