Peachtree City considers proposal to sue critics

Some people in Peachtree City are wondering if they will soon have to watch their tongue when it comes to city leaders.

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The Peachtree City Council will soon consider a resolution to allow the city to sue or prosecute its own citizens for defamation with their own tax dollars.

Peachtree City, the planned community with golf carts and meandering trails may be forging a new legal path when it comes to defamation of those who work for or represent the city.

“I don’t think that someone should have the ability to come in and just said something, that I committed a crime, I don’t think it’s fair,” said Jon Rorie, the city manager of Peachtree City.

Rorie said city in an effort to guard against blatant falsehoods the Peachtree City council will soon consider a new resolution.

It reads in part, “The city of Peachtree City shall fund legal action on the part of any elected official, appointed official, or employee … who has been defamed in a public media outlet, television, social media or other outlets.”

“So yes I think we should indemnify them,” said Rorie.

When asked about the use of tax dollars, Rorie responded, “I don’t know. That remains to be seen. That’s a decision the council will have to make.”

Peachtree City resident Ed Richardson wasn’t happy about the prospect of tax dollars being used.

“I haven’t thought about that but it doesn’t seem to be ‘no,’” said Richardson. 

Someone who has thought about it is First Amendment attorney Cynthia Counts, who included our FaceTime interview in the media law class she was teaching at Emory University Tuesday night.

“The average person, a reasonable person is not going to want risk criticizing a government official because it’s unclear what the line is,” said Counts.

And she said legal precedent has already shown falsehoods alone are often not enough for liability.

Counts asked her class about that, “Do you believe everything you see on Facebook. Right, they are pretty good on that and they’ve got to meet the higher fault standard.”

The city manager said it’s a high bar worth pursuing.

“At some point, you’ve got to address this issue you can’t just let things continue, if not now when,” said Rorie.

He said the Peachtree City Council will consider the resolution at its meeting Thursday night at 6:30.