Former University of Minnesota employee Jerry Moore is suing a blogger that Moore said published intentionally defamatory content in order to get him fired.
MN Daily Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series examining controversy surrounding former University employee Jerry Moore. Next week’s story will focus on the recent political history of the Jordan neighborhood in north Minneapolis.
The lawsuit seeks $150,000 in damages from blogger John Hoff (who is a former Daily columnist) and Jordan neighborhood resident Don Allen, both of whom wrote content criticizing the University for hiring Moore.
Hoff wrote of, among other things, a February 2008 lawsuit involving swindler Larry Maxwell , who was charged with 18 counts of mortgage fraud. The court used a $5,000 consulting deal with Moore as evidence to convict Maxwell, according to a court complaint.
Moore’s stint at the University lasted less than two months before his contract as a “casual temporary” worker at the University of Minnesota’s Urban Research and Outreach Center was terminated on June 22, University spokesman Dan Wolter said in an e-mail.
His hiring at the University in May infuriated members of north Minneapolis’ Jordan neighborhood because of a history of animosity between Moore and Jordan community members, stemming back to 2005, Hoff said.
The University was unaware of the litigation Moore was involved in when they hired him, Wolter said.
Moore declined to comment for this story.
The Jordan Neighborhood
Moore was the Jordan Area Community Council executive director from 2007 to 2009, but was fired for misconduct. According to a police report, Moore slapped, pushed and punched three fellow board members during a Jan. 12 meeting, though he was never charged.
Toward the end of his tenure as executive director, Moore neglected several months’ worth of rent, electricity, gas and insurance payments for JACC offices and failed to pay property taxes at a JACC-owned house for several months once new members took over, according to financial records.
JACC has been rife with controversy and litigation during the last year because of a faction between two groups in the organization: the “old majority” and the “new majority,” JACC board chairman Michael Browne said.
The two “majorities” split in January when Moore and other JACC board members were removed from office by a community vote, which Moore and his “old majority” of board members called a conspiracy, according to court documents.
The old majority, led by displaced board member Ethylon Brown, filed for a temporary restraining order against the newly elected board members in attempt to bar them from taking office, according to court documents. Hennepin County Judge Charles Porter ruled against the old majority.
Now the old majority is seeking a permanent restraining order. A decision is expected within a week.
“Basically, there are two groups of people [at JACC]. One group, the new majority, has a vision for north Minneapolis sort of as a new Uptown,” Browne said. “The old majority is set on keeping things the same.”
Jill Clark , the attorney representing the old majority, is also representing Moore in his case against Hoff. Clark did not respond to e-mailed requests for comment.
Defamation of character
Once the University hired Moore, Hoff began to write about it on his blog.
“I’m filling a niche where the mainstream media doesn’t serve us,” Hoff said. “People in my neighborhood want to know what’s going on.”
Moore, through his attorney, claimed Hoff had a bias against him, and used that agenda to get him fired from his position at the University, according to a court complaint.
Moore’s suit attempts to “expand or modify [First Amendment] law” by claiming that because Hoff’s blog does not neutrally report news he is not protected by the First Amendment, according to the complaint.
The suit also claims that because journalism was created as a watchdog organization by the government, and Hoff has connections with JACC, the First Amendment protection does not apply.
“The blog is a mouthpiece for [Hoff’s] own views and agendas,” the civil complaint states. “Hoff makes little, if any, attempt to get the ‘other side,’ of any story.”
Hoff’s attorney Albert Goins said he expects to win the case.
“The reason the founders of our nation created the First Amendment was that so people that were politically upset wouldn’t be punished for views that are dissenting, different or offensive,” Goins said.
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