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Judge dismisses defamation lawsuits filed by Del. Impallaria

Del. Rick Impallaria had filed several defamation lawsuits against fellow Republicans. Most have now been dismissed. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Del. Rick Impallaria had filed several defamation lawsuits against fellow Republicans. Most have now been dismissed. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

A Harford County Circuit Court judge has dismissed two defamation lawsuits filed by Del. Rick Impallaria.

Impallaria, a Republican in his fifth term representing Baltimore and Harford counties, filed suits against two fellow Republicans, Christopher Biggs and Carol Kiple, after both filed complaints with the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.

Judge Angela Eaves dismissed the defamation lawsuits Monday against Biggs and Kiple and ordered Impallaria to pay $500.

“The take away from this case is to not be intimidated when powerful politicians try to use the courts to silence those that would call out their wrong doing,” said Biggs. “Having a $75,000 lawsuit filed against me and being served papers at my home was quite an intimidating thing, especially when the legislature found one of my ethics complaint against Delegate Impallaria to be worthwhile.  Nobody should ever be scared out of filing an ethics complaint against their legislature, especially when the law is designed to insulate and protect the legislators from any real punishment.”

Kiple, said it was “sad that an elected delegate would try to silence a concerned citizen who reported abuse of state property. I knew many people who campaigned for that delegate position with hard work and precious campaign donations. They would have loved the opportunity to use free printers, ink and paper but only Rick Impallaria abused our trust and took advantage of property and materials paid for by Maryland taxpayers to win his campaign. I’m disgusted by the man and disappointed by the constituents who voted for him.”

Impallaria was immediately available for comment.

The lawsuits against Biggs and Kiple were part of more than half-dozen filed by Impallaria, 57, against fellow Republicans as he attempted to use the courts to intimidate political opponents. In one filing Impallaria contended that he and his family suffered emotionally and compared his accusers to embattled actor Jussie Smollett.

Complaints to the legislative ethics panel are confidential by law. They were made public when Impallaria made them part of the public record when he filed his lawsuits against Kiple and Biggs and attached letters from the committee referencing the complaints.

Impallaria, 57, separate defamation lawsuits against Biggs and Kiple, after both filed separate complaints with the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee.

Biggs filed two complaints in January 2019. In the first, he questioned the appropriateness of Impallaria receiving sports and concert tickets from an aide. The committee dismissed that, saying the prohibition on gifts applies only to persons having a financial interest that could be affected by the actions of the legislature.

In the second, Biggs alleged that Impallaria failed to properly disclose an outside job on annual ethics disclosure forms. The committee found that Impallaria, while disclosing the employment in some years, had in fact failed to disclose outside employment consistently.

The ethics panel ultimately decided to take no action against Impallaria after he filed amended reports and promised the ethics panel he would be more diligent in his disclosures.

Kiple, in her 2019 complaint, alleged that Impallaria used a state-owned printer to do campaign work. The ethics committee, in a letter to Impallaria, said it could find no evidence that he had committed the ethical breach and dismissed the complaint.

In court filings, Impallaria said Kiple and Biggs were “making up allegations and should not be protected or allowed to waste the valuable time of government bodies such as the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics or agencies such as the state special prosecutor. As in the case of Jussie Smollett in Chicago, those allegations were false and the state’s attorney chose not to prosecute. That did not stop the city of Chicago, the mayor and the police chief from seeking civil action against Mr. Smollett.”

Smollett had claimed to be the victim of a racially motivated attack, but authorities later concluded that the incident had been concocted.

In August, Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Jan Alexander dismissed a lawsuit, with prejudice,that Impallaria had filed against Al Mendelsohn, Joshua Wolf, Bradley Lang and J. Michael Collins. All four were members of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee.

Impallaria alleged that he was defamed when the four discussed, during a central committee meeting, a possible reprimand based on Impallaria’s past legal problems and his campaign’s connection to an illegal robocall.

The lawsuit was dismissed after Impallaria failed to appear at the hearing.

Impallaria has one remaining case, a lawsuit against Michael Geppi, a Republican who challenged the sitting delegate in the 2018 Republican primary.

Geppi used a mug shot of Impallaria from an arrest in Ocean City in a campaign mailing. Impallaria, who was convicted of driving under the influence two years ago and has numerous traffic violations and previous criminal charges, alleges that the glossy mailer contained “false, defamatory, and maliciously distorted allegations in an effort to disparage, injure, and undermine” Impallaria’s public, personal and professional standing.

In January, a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge denied Impallaria’s motion for summary judgment.

 

 


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