In a lawsuit between a big corporation and a Twiggs County activist, one thing seems clear: Someone’s lying about who’s lying.
The lawsuit by Wolf Creek Landfill LLC contends that activist Cecil Fountain Jr. lied about whether the company was itself lying. Fountain’s legal response claims that the landfill -- backed by Advanced Disposal Services Inc. -- is suing him just to get him to shut up. Fountain earlier fought a planned expansion of the landfill.
This week, a planned court hearing on Fountain’s motion to dismiss the suit was continued for another day. Fountain is asking a Twiggs County Superior Court judge to toss the case, saying it’s a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.
His attorneys, R. Lars Anderson and William H. Noland of Macon, say the big company is trying to silence the little guy.
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“This lawsuit is an attempt to eliminate criticism through intimidation and force,” Fountain’s attorneys wrote. “Wolf Creek Landfill’s intent is clear and obvious.”
The attorneys say Fountain was rightfully working to protest the environmental impact of a landfill expansion. Fountain and other activists argued an expansion could pollute the area’s drinking water.
Wolf Creek originally sought to expand the landfill itself, then withdrew that application and filed another seeking a rezoning of the adjacent land and permission to store construction debris there. State regulators put Twiggs County on a kind of probation because of how the county mishandled the applications.
Mary O’Brien, chief marketing officer for Florida-based Advanced Disposal, said the company’s lawsuit is justified.
“We believe that it is a completely legitimate suit and in no way is it a SLAPP suit,” she said. She said the company can’t discuss in detail any issues under litigation.
The company’s lawsuit said Fountain falsely defamed the company and its engineer, Michael Stubbs, in January 2011, when Fountain spoke at a public meeting about a proposal to expand the landfill and said an application written by Stubbs for the landfill “was filled with multiple counts of deceitful and false information.”
Wolf Creek said those claims are “completely baseless and false” and were maliciously made to harm the company’s business interests.
Wolf Creek Landfill claims Fountain also harassed state environmental regulators with “unfounded complaints.”
The lawsuit does not specify what Wolf Creek Landfill believes Fountain said is false. O’Brien declined to discuss the specifics of the lawsuit when contacted by The Telegraph. The landfill’s Macon attorney, R. Robert Lovett, did not return a phone call seeking specifics in the case.
But correspondence that came last year shows that Anderson, on behalf of Fountain, asked twice for specifics. Wolf Creek demanded in March an apology and attorneys fees from Fountain. Anderson wrote back that he couldn’t reply “without some further specificity as to your clients’ contention.” Wolf Creek replied with a transcript of Fountain’s statements but did not highlight anything. In April, Anderson wrote a letter again asking for the specific areas of concern, which he said never received a reply.
Anderson told The Telegraph he still doesn’t know why the company thinks it has a case against his client. Fountain’s response claims he’s the one telling the truth.
“We’ve been waiting for them to give us some kind of an idea as to what they’re going to do, and they haven’t been able to do that yet,” Anderson said. “In other words: What are you complaining about?”
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.