A defamation suit against a former Hamburg Central School Board member has been dismissed.
Charles F. Mahoney, a former teacher in the Hamburg district, had sued Matthew A. Dils and the school district, charging that Dils on two occasions at two separate board meetings had defamed him.
Mahoney had claimed that Dils made disparaging comments about him Oct. 6, 2011, when Mahoney was one of six candidates interviewed by the School Board to be appointed to an open board seat.
He also said that Dils again defamed him during an executive session of the School Board conducted Jan. 10, 2012.
In his decision, acting State Supreme Court Justice Michael L. D’Amico said that Mahoney failed to prove that the statements allegedly made by Dils were defamatory or that Mahoney suffered special damages.
“We disagree with the decision,” said Mahoney’s attorney, Harvey Sanders. “The court did not consider all the facts on the record. We are reviewing the decision in connection with a likely appeal.”
Jody E. Briandi, attorney for the school district and Dils, disagreed. “We obviously feel like the court made the right decision based on the facts, based on the law,” she said.
D’Amico ruled that Mahoney failed to prove the comments at the Oct. 6, 2011, meeting were meant for the general public, and if they were, he ruled Dils had privilege as a board member engaged in his board duties. He also ruled that Mahoney, in seeking to be appointed to the board, was a public figure.
Regarding the Jan. 10, 2011, executive session, the judge noted that Mahoney said he made a recording of the comments from outside the closed meeting room, but he failed to produce the tape or another recording he said had been made.
“No individual other than the plaintiff himself has offered proof of any recording of the words spoken in executive session,” D’Amico wrote.
But even if the tapes existed, the case still would be dismissed because of the privilege granted school board members, the judge wrote.
This is not the first action Mahoney has filed against Dils. Mahoney filed a petition with the state education commissioner in 2012, asking him to remove Dils from the board for missing board meetings. The commissioner has not yet issued a decision, but Dils did not seek re-election when his term ended in June 2013.
Dils was on the board in 2003 when Mahoney left the district. Mahoney said he turned down an extra year of probation offered by the district. The School Board then terminated him.