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Candidate Bob Kelly Threatens Lawsuit Against Church and City

April 29, 2015 By:Anne Marie Kilday

Local News

In a series of emails that began late last Friday, former West U Mayor Bob Kelly has threatened to file a “slander” lawsuit over an endorsement letter written by Councilman Ed Heathcott.

In his letter to members of West U Baptist Church, Heathcott, a deacon at the church, endorsed Susan Sample, who is running unopposed in her bid for mayor, as well as candidates Bruce Beneke, a church deacon, former councilman and Mayor Pro tem Steven Segal and Philip Snyder.

By supporting those candidates, Heathcott wrote “We can uphold existing laws granting churches the right of religious freedom.”

Healthcott’s letter also mentions the candidates running as “a slate,” including Kelly, Brennan Reilly, former Mayor Burt Ballanfant and Mardi Turner. He said that the Pastor of West U Baptist “has been keeping the church family informed of some of their activities and statements that are of concern to WUBC.”

In his letter, Heathcott urged members of the church to participate in the May 9 municipal election.

Ed Heathcott endorsement letter.

Ed Heathcott endorsement letter.

“Let’s maintain our current good relationship between our church and our City while we continue to support the church as an institution,” Heathcott wrote.

In an e-mail to Heathcott, sent at 10:47 p.m. Friday, April 24, Kelly wrote: “Have you lost your mind. No one is pushing illegal activities, I demand a retraction.

A few minutes later, at 11:15 p.m., Kelly sent another email, to Mayor Bob Fry, all of the current members of the City Council, City Manager Michael Ross, and City Attorney Alan Petrov.

In that email, Kelly wrote: “You are put on notice of possible slanderous statements by one of your City Council Members. Please put  the West University Baptist Church of the actionable conduct of one of their Deacons. (sic)  They should put their insurers on notice.”

Heathcott said Wednesday that his letter was an endorsement of Sample.

“As is evident, there is nothing actionable in the letter.  It is simply an endorsement of who Susan Sample is and that she maintains high ethics and would do nothing illegal,” Heathcott said.

In an exchange of emails this week with InstantNewsNetwork.com managing director George Boehme, Kelly refused to discuss what part of the Heathcott endorsement letter was “actionable.”

Kelly’s response was: “The email stands as written and is self explanatory.”

Kelly is an attorney, but has possibly confused the difference between slander and libel.

According to NOLO.Com, a legal website: “Libel and slander are types of defamatory statements. Libel is a written defamatory statement, and slander is a spoken or oral defamatory statement.”

Cases of libel are very hard to prove, especially if the claimant is a public figure.

In 1964, in the case of New York Times V. Sullivan, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that “the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when statements are made with actual malice (defined as knowledge that they are false, or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity). The Court also held that a public official suing for defamation must prove that the statement in question was made with actual malice. Later, the  U.S. Supreme Court ruled that candidates for public office are considered “public officials” in defamation cases.

Claimants in defamation cases face another hurdle in Texas, since the 2011 state Legislature passed the Texas Citizen Participation Act.

In an article for the legal blog, Texas360.com, attorney Jeffrey Elkins explained that the new law allows a defendant in a defamation suit to file a motion for dismissal within 60 days, if the defendant was “exercising freedom of speech on a matter of public concern.”

In the article, Elkins explained that the Texas Legislature “made the determination that democracy works only if people are involved; meaning sharing information, exchanging ideas, writing about public issues, commenting on the quality of a business or assembling to support a cause. The TCPA is meant to protect citizen participation.”

23 Responses to “Candidate Bob Kelly Threatens Lawsuit Against Church and City”

  1. Louisa Bergeron Says:

    Living in W. University Place is losing it’s specialness with a church demanding expansion on its terms so they can make more myoney, be bigger, newer, better? West University Town Center, a shopping destination, a builder started that…plus a new place at church to drop off more children so we can feel even more disconnected from our children? Here’s a crazy idea; Reducing square footage of our churches & homes & embracing our yards for children to play, to climb trees, harvest a few vegetables & plant roses. First like voting, freedom of choice; but however that turns out I must figure out how much sun if any I will receive as churches all compete to expand and while residents continue to agree with builders that wall to wall yard-less expansions are the only way to go. Please, there’s no crying over green space, especially if you’ve surrendered what you owned. Dogs for the most part, as regular as humans, need to poop within their own lots. Our town, not just it’s Center, is nearly wiped out by catastrophe already by human doings. Pun intended.

  2. Lucille Gallman Says:

    The letter Councilman Ed Heathcott wrote to the
    West U Baptist member is hard to see online.
    The following helps:

    Go to: http://www.instantnewswestu.com
    Left click the story that has the picture of the letter.
    Put mouse over the letter and left click once.
    Put mouse over the picture and right click once.
    Select Print Picture with left click.
    Select Print with left click.
    Magnifying Glass Helps.

  3. Ordinary Citizen Says:

    In response to the article, “Candidate Bob Kelly Threatens Lawsuit Against Church and City”

    Heathcott’s letter is unbelievable and it appears those writing in this blog are quick to throw stones towards others, but lack comprehension or are too busy to take time to see through the smoke screens. The focus should be on the letter and not running down rabbit trails.

    Heathcott signed his letter as an official of both the City and the Church. How can that be when the City and the Church are currently polar opposites? If he is going to act as an official for the church, he should be asked to resign as a council member. Likewise, if he is going to act as an officer for the City he should be prohibited from acting as an official of the Church. He has clearly gone against the City by sending the letter in the first place.

    Heathcott goes on to endorse Sample because she would oppose the City doing illegal acts. Is he stating the City might perform illegal acts?

    Heathcott continues in the letter by endorsing Beneke, who is also an official of the church, Segal and Snyder as they would protect the interests of the Church against the City. CLEARLY ACTING AGAINST THE CITY. In effect, Heathcott has put together a pro church slate while acting in the official capacity of a West University Place councilman.

    In closing, I believe any possible action would belong to City and Church. Heathcott cannot be on both sides of the fence and commit to writing his stand against the very City he has been elected to represent as a councilman. IT IS OUTRAGEOUS BEHAVIOR TO SAY THE VERY LEAST. Makes one wonder if he ran for city council just to promote his agenda for the Church.

    Stand for the City of West University Place. Stop throwing stones, wake up and smell the coffee.

  4. Lucille Gallman Says:

    When I was growing up in West University Place, the Baptist church was a strong positive influence in the city. Most of the older families were members of the church and welcomed non-members to attend and a mutual respect existed between residents no matter what church, if any, they attended. There seems to be some kind of power struggle going on which can result in West University Place becoming a less desirable place to live.

  5. Ed N Says:

    I’m shocked Ed Heathcott knows the word “ethics”. He was the council member who made the motion to
    move forward with the property deal between WUBC and the city. Although he was clearly in conflict (due to his
    leadership position as a deacon in WUBC), he refused to recuse himself from further council discussions and votes
    on the matter until months of public outcry became too loud to ignore.

  6. We have a constitution Says:

    The name of this city is West University Place.

    It’s not West University Baptist Church Place.

    Keep our city independent. Say no to Beneke, the church’s puppet.

  7. No Retreads for council Says:

    Kelly is an embarrassment. Look at his gross overreaction here. That guy is a walking lawsuit..

  8. SportzBra Says:

    Enough with all of this.
    I can still push my baby carriage in the middle of the street, since I can’t get around the corner houses with their SUVs blocking the sidewalks.
    Life is good.
    Politics suck!

    • Are you kidding Says:

      Are you kidding George Boehme, owner of West U Instant News, loves this stuff!

      • Lucille Gallman Says:

        As my uncle used to say, “It sells newspapers.” In the Online Age, it sells ads.

  9. College Resident Says:

    Bob Kelly should proceed with his lawsuit. That way this whole sordid affair will be exposed; the collusion, the conflict of interests, the intellectual corruption, the bogus survey, etc., ALL of it.

    • We have a constitution Says:

      The whole deal is like an onion. The more you peel it back, the more it stinks.

  10. College Resident Says:

    And Government has made no such Laws, but religious organizations keep meddling in politics, where they don’t belong.
    Bob Kelly should proceed with his lawsuit. That way this whole sordid affair will be exposed; the collusion, the conflict of interests, the intellectual corruption, the bogus survey, etc., ALL of it.

  11. West U Instant News Name Change Says:

    West U Inquiring Minds Keeps Stiring The Pot (even when there is nothing left to stir).

  12. advocatefortransparency Says:

    When isn’t Kelly cocktailed? It appears that he thinks being on council will be like the good ole days when he was Mayor and used to go out drinking with the former city secretary.

  13. Black helicoper Says:

    Yeah, and WUBC and Patterson are at the controls.

  14. Private school mama Says:

    I agree with College Resident! WUBC is pulling the strings and we need to take out city back. My child was on a team “coached” by Patterson. His child played the lead role all the time, despite his lack of success in it. And we were encouraged to have illegal practices at the church gym when the league had clearly stated one practice per week. So bending the rules to suit himself is what the leader of WUBC is all about. Be warned!

  15. Candidates Cringing Says:

    The candidates that Heathcott mentions and endorses in his letter must be cringing especially since Heathcott is saying that these candidates will protect the rights of the West U Baptist Church. Maybe he is right?

  16. College Resident Says:

    It is the church that bullies others. WUBC says “jump” and our City Council asks “how high?”
    The hypocrisy to claim “religious freedom”. That seems to be the new catch phrase to justify pushing their weight around. They already have more “freedom” than they deserve, but that is not what they want. What they want is to control Government and the Law to shove their ideas down people’s throat while making money in the process.
    It is a mafia that doesn’t do any good, it corrupts everything it touches, uses our communities resources, and pays no takes.
    Our country was founded on the principle of complete separation of Church and State. But churches have found a way around it by planting their members in government bodies so they can steer legislation their way and get things done the way they want it.
    By Heathcott endorsing Sample, we now know what she will be all about. A marionette of WUBC.
    So:
    KEEP THE CHURCH OUT OF POLITICS

  17. Brokelyn Says:

    I cannot say this emphatically enough and this is a case that warrants shouting loudly on the Internet:

    KEEP ATTORNEYS OUT OF POLITICS

    Bob Fry is only reinforcing the unfortunate stereotype that attorneys use the law as a stick, to instill fear of the unknown (the law), and to bully others.

    Bob has an impressive resume full of public service accomplishments but his time is done. WU needs to get as far away from the bickering and stupidity that has dominated Council leadership for the past few years. I read through the position statements, reviewed comments, and have learned as much as possible about our candidates and fear that we don’t have a full slate of right-minded people running this year. I don’t know who will be on my voting card yet, but Bob Fry is absolutely NOT one of them.

    I am glad to see Heathcott move on. While he has been a weak link in Council again this term, I don’t see anything wrong with him writing the letter he did (even though he too is just showing us what a freaking politician he is — and the word politician is not a compliment).

    Somebody save us from these clowns.

    • College Resident Says:

      KEEP THE CHURCH OUT OF POLITICS
      KEEP THE CHURCH OUT OF POLITICS

    • Brokelyn Says:

      Thank you for the correction and my apologies to Bob Fry.

      Yes, that was entirely my typo…was referring only to Bob Kelly.

    • Brokelyn Says:

      Does Bob Kelly have a lot of supporters? I fear that his long tenure around here and name recognition will get him elected.

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