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Crime & Justice

Gaston County Sues Gaston Gazette Over Story It Says Was Defamatory

Gaston County has sued the Gaston Gazette over a story the newspaper published last week which the county says was defamatory.

gavel and justice scales
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The Nov. 12 story said county commissioners settled almost $400,000 in workers compensation claims behind closed doors, in violation of state law requiring such settlements to be made in public.

In a statement, the county said the story contained “numerous and easily proven falsehoods” and that it unfairly damaged the reputation of the county and the board of commissioners.

The county’s suit says all of the settlements were voted on in open session and asks a judge to order the paper to issue a retraction and an apology.

In the story, Gazette reporter Adam Orr wrote: "Commissioners did not disclose information about these 2020 settlements until The Gazette requested information on Oct. 15 about actions taken during closed sessions in 2020. Commissioners responded by voting Oct. 27 to approve records from at least five of the nine closed sessions they have held from Feb. 4 to Aug. 25."

In a statement, Gaston County Board of Commissioners chairman Tracy Philbeck said: “We’ve seen and heard a striking volume of fake news over the past few years, but when a newspaper goes so far as to publish patent falsities with such reckless disregard about what is going on at any level of government, they must be held accountable. And that is exactly what we are doing collectively and individually in taking legal action against Gannett.”

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