Attorney for Mark and Debbie Reed claims Reed's speech is constitutionally protected
A tort claim filed earlier this year by Riley Baker against Debbie and Mark Reed will get further consideration in court later this month.
Court records show the Reeds filed a motion to strike or dismiss the claims in Baker's legal complaint.
Baker, whose father Dave Baker is a director on the Columbia River People's Utility District board of directors, filed the $400,000 lawsuit in August, six months after Debbie Reed made public comments implicating he intimidated Reed's mother-in-law and likely removed a political sign from her yard during a recall election for a PUD director in February.
The comments were made during a PUD meeting that same month, shortly before the election.
Reed indicated Riley Baker approached her mother-in-law about an anti-recall sign, harassed her about it and later removed the sign without the property owner's permission, which is considered a crime.
In his complaint, Baker claims Reed's comments constitute slander, damaging his reputation and jeopardizing his plumbing business.
The Reeds countered, submitting a written statement of what Debbie Reed allegedly read during the meeting, but Baker's attorney, Michael Sahagian, also provided written testimony from Joe Lewis, a meeting attendee who said the statement wasn't what Debbie Reed read at the meeting.
Sahagian also provided video recorded testimony from Delores Reed, who acknowledged Baker stopped by her home, but denied he ever intimidated or harassed her over the sign.
The meeting was not recorded by the PUD, and attorneys for both sides have relied on statements and meeting minutes.
Debbie Reed later ran for Dave Baker's seat on the PUD board, but lost to an opponent who was later deemed ineligible to serve in the position.
It's unclear whether the recorded and written testimony will have any impact on the case.
The rebuttals submitted by Lori DeDobbelaere, an attorney for the Reeds, were made with a motion to dismiss the case because it relies too heavily on hearsay, and claims testimony from Delores
Reed should not be considered credible because she has Alzheimers Disease and cannot accurately remember events.
A key component in the case will be whether Debbie Reed's comments are considered free speech statements made for the sake of public interest, which comes with constitutional protection under Oregon law, or whether they are
considered malicious and defamatory against a private citizen.
The Reeds say Debbie felt she was acting in the public's best interest, because she was trying to bring light to how an election was being handled.
Baker was instrumental in gathering signatures to support the recall election. Reed and her husband opposed the recall.
Attorneys for the defendants and plaintiff did not respond to requests for comment. A court hearing on the case is scheduled later this month.