2016 defamation suit against ex-Troutdale councilor settled
A defamation-based lawsuit filed nearly four years ago against a former Troutdale City Councilor and local monthly newspaper has been dismissed, with a settlement agreement including a published statement of explanation from defendant Rich Allen.
The suit, filed Nov. 16, 2016, claimed Allen, a former Troutdale councilor, knowingly made false statements in an opinion piece in The Northwest Connection about a proposed project by Eastwinds Development LLC on Urban Renewal property in Troutdale near the Sandy River.
In the suit, Eastwinds — helmed by longtime Troutdale and Portland entrepreneur Junki Yoshida — sought $250,000 from Allen and The Northwest Connection Enterprises, according to the suit filed with Multnomah County Circuit Court.
In legal filings, Eastwinds claimed Allen's opinion article tainted its ethical reputation and subsequently hampered business dealings with the city.
With attorneys of all parties coming to an agreement, the court dismissed the suit, including a subsequent appeal filed by Allen on Feb. 25 of this year.
As part of the dismissal agreement, Allen agreed to submit a published statement, which appears in full on The Outlook's Opinion page on Tuesday, March 17. In the statement, Allen said he wanted to express his "differing views" in Eastwinds' direction for the property in writing. Now, however, he "would like to clarify certain aspects" of his opinion piece regarding the Troutdale Urban Renewal project adjacent to the Columbia Gorge Outlets mall.
"I did not intend to imply that Eastwinds Development ("Eastwinds"), Matt Wand, Junki Yoshida or any Troutdale City Councilor (including any of them named in my article) had engaged in any type of unethical or dishonest behavior in connection with the Troutdale urban renewal project," Allen said in the statement. "Indeed, I was not aware of any information indicating that unethical or dishonest conduct occurred.
"I disagreed with the process," the statement continued, "but everything that I am aware of was conducted within the process set up by the City Council and (former Troutdale mayor Doug Daoust)."
Wand, who serves as Eastwinds' legal counsel, indicated he was pleased with the settlement and being able to put the protracted matter behind him.
"It was unfortunate that it took this much effort to get the record cleared up, we only ever desired or wanted that councilor Allen would retract his statements, and we're satisfied with the result," Wand told The Outlook on Friday, March 13. "Most important, we're glad to have our reputation back. (That's) both principals of Eastwinds, City Council and the mayor, who were falsely maligned during the Urban Renewal discussions."
Allen's lawyer had filed for dismissal of the case citing a statute arguing it is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) case, a maneuver used to silence critics participating in a public capacity. The Multnomah County Circuit Court shot down the anti-SLAPP motion, however, which allowed the case to proceed.
Allen's attorneys disagreed and appealed the ruling.
The legal dispute arose over a now-abandoned Eastwinds development project on former industrial land just north of downtown. Eastwinds, which subsequently sold its eight acres of the 12-acre property to the city, had planned to transform the riverside area into a destination resort. The city of Troutdale is now seeking developers and cleared all remaining structures from the parcel last fall.
"I'm sure there are many people on both sides that are going to be relieved to know that reason has won out and the case is settled after months of negotiation," Allen told The Outlook on Thursday, March 12. "We can all continue on with our lives and plan for not only our own future, but the future of Troutdale."
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