A judge has ordered DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader to pay $2,500 in attorney fees after he withdrew his libel lawsuit against a resident who had filed an ethics complaint against him.
Rockdale County Superior Court Judge David Irwin ruled Nov. 10 that DeKalb resident Timothy Brantley was entitled to be repaid by Rader.
"The Rules of Procedure of the DeKalb County Ethics Board makes it abundantly clear that the speech alleged to be slanderous in plaintiff's complaint is absolutely privileged, and therefore not actionable," Irwin wrote.
Rader had sought at least $100,000 in damages because he alleged that Brantley made false and defamatory statements by accusing Rader of using his elected position to benefit himself and his former employer, Jacobs Engineering, which has won contracts from the county.
The DeKalb Board of Ethics dismissed Brantley's complaint Aug. 14, and Rader has recused himself from voting on matters involving Jacobs Engineering.
Rader has said he sued because he wanted to clear his name.
"It is undeniable that defendant has accused plaintiff of committing a felony, which is slander per se. Plaintiff denies that he committed any such offense," wrote Rader's attorney, Scott Bennett, in an Oct. 29 court filing. "... Bring(ing) defamation and libel suit for these egregious lies is not frivolous and is supported by ample justification."
Rader voluntary dismissed his suit Oct. 14 with the possibility of refiling it in the future. He didn't attend a court hearing later that day, when Brantley's attorney argued for attorney fees.
Irwin handled the case after all DeKalb superior court judges recused themselves.