A former Southampton Village police sergeant is appealing the dismissal of a $1 million defamation lawsuit he filed against some of the village board members who voted to fire him in 2007.
State Supreme Court Judge Paul J. Baisley Jr. rendered last month, throwing out the case filed by Christopher Broich against Mayor Mark Epley and village Trustees Nancy McGann and Paul Robinson. Broich's attorneys sent a notice of appeal to the attorney for Epley, McGann and Robinson on Friday, continuing a lawsuit they were first served with in May 2008, accusing them of making false and damaging statements against Broich.
The statements were made during the 2007 village election about missing blank tickets at the police department and negative statements about Broich during his run for village office in 2008. Broich claimed the statements damaged his reputation and ability to find work.
The defendants argued that they had "qualified privilege with respect to the statements," and the judge agreed. "Here, the first two statements were made during a public debate while the defendants were running for office and regarded a matter of public concern, namely the issue of missing tickets in the police department," Baisley wrote in his decision. "The third and fourth statements were made while the plaintiff was a candidate for public office."
Baisley said that because the statements were privileged, Broich would need to do more than prove the statements were false to win a defamation lawsuit; he would also need to prove there was malice behind the statements.
In the appeal, Broich's attorneys argue that regardless of whether the statements were privileged, and regardless of whether the complaint satisfactorily alleged malice, the lawsuit should not have been dismissed prior to the discovery phase of the pretrial being completed.
The lawsuit states that during a 2007 village election debate McGann and Robinson both made false statements that an investigation into the police department's ticket handling turned up hundreds of blank tickets in Broich's locker at the department.
The investigation arose because of a complaint Broich filed, claiming a ticket-fixing scheme was in place at the village police department. An outside agency cleared the police department of wrongdoing, but it did criticize the department for keeping poor track of its ticket books. The police have since moved to an electronic ticketing system.
As for Epley's published comments that were made a subject of the lawsuit, he said "At one point in time Chris Broich was a very good police officer," but things have changed, and now Broich's actions speak for themselves.
Broich recently had a , but , intending to bring the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals.