After threatening to do so last year when the issue was raised over potential wrongdoing between JB Athletics, LLC and Walton County Parks and Recreation over the ball field rentals, a law suit has been filed – not against the county, but against five local Walton County citizens who raised the issue.
Andre T. Tennille III, attorney for Bradford Huff, Sr. and Jon “Jody” Johnson, Jr., said the suit was filed in Walton County on Friday, May 19, 2017, against Walton County Commissioner Lee Bradford in his personal capacity, James Robertson, Matthew Perkins, Crystal Carter and Monroe City Councilman Norman Garrett, also in his personal capacity. He said that Huff and Johnson decided against naming Walton County in the suit.
“They love their home, and they love their jobs. They also realize that Walton County is more than these defendants,” Tennille said.
The suit contends that these five defendants “launched a smear campaign targeting the Plaintiffs. They manufactured evidence for the campaign and then used it in false statements to the media and online,” devastating their business and sullying their reputation.
At issue was an accusation that it was a conflict of interest for Huff and Johnson, both employees of Walton County’s Parks and Recreation, to be renting the fields from the county for their business to host travel ball over weekends. An investigation was launched and the county suspended the practice at the end of the last season. It has not been reinstated since. The issue dominated headlines last summer with the issue being raised at several Walton County Board of Commission meetings. At the time, Carter had said she was hoping for an unbiased investigation.
“If there is no wrongdoing, I hope that is verified and if there is wrongdoing I hope it comes out and some form of restitution is paid. I just want there to be a fair and unbiased investigation,” Carter said, going on to say she was not against the travel teams, especially if it is financially beneficial to the county, but she didn’t believe that a private company should benefit at the expense of the taxpayers. When contacted over the law suit, Carter had not yet been served and wanted to get a look at it before commenting.
“I’m not worried about it though as I only stated the truth, she said.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs demanded that the named defendants retract “their defamatory statements,” giving them ample time to do so. It noted that the District Attorney investigate the matter and cleared the plaintiffs of any wrongdoing.
The plaintiffs are asking for a jury trial and that the court award them compensatory damages on all counts, which include tortious interference with business relations, tortious interference with contract, violation of the Georgia RICO Act, defamation and civil conspiracy. It is asking for all damages allowed under the Georgia RICO Act as well as the expense of litigation and punitive damages.