By Royal Calkins
Seaside City Manager Craig Malin failed to convince an Iowa jury that the Quad City Times newspaper in Davenport, Iowa, had wrongly interfered with his contract with that city, costing him his city manager’s job there.
After two weeks of trial and several hours of deliberation on Friday, the jury ruled against Malin and for the newspaper, columnist Barbara Ickes and former reporter Brian Wellner.
Judge Henry Latham had ruled earlier that Malin’s lawyers had failed to make a case against the fourth defendant, Quad City Times owner Lee Enterprises. He entered a directed verdict in the company’s favor.
In what had begun as a libel lawsuit, Malin contended that the newspaper had intentionally published erroneous information in 2015 about his performance while he ran city government in Davenport. Among other things, the paper reported that he had made decisions favoring the developer of a casino without fully informing the mayor or city aldermen, the equivalent of a city council.
After a judge determined that Malin was a public figure, severely limiting his chances of winning a significant judgment against the newspaper, his attorneys changed course, dropped the defamation claim and alleged the publication had improperly interfered with his contract.
The eight-member jury deliberated for less than six hours, an indication, under Iowa law, that it had reached a unanimous verdict.
Davenport lawyer Ian Russell, who represented the newspaper defendants, said it was “a victory for the First Amendment and freedom of the press locally, at the state level and nationally.”
Malin’s only comment after the trial was an email saying, “I thank the jury for their service.”
For more background on Malin and the court case, see Defamation in Davenport, Iowa?
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