Lebanon mayor, business owners settle federal lawsuit over social media issue

Lebanon Mayor Amy Brewer

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Lebanon Mayor Amy Brewer

A settlement agreement has been reached between Lebanon Mayor Amy Brewer and the owners of a downtown Lebanon business who took her to federal court for allegedly blocking them off her social media page.

Lebanon City Council Tuesday approved the settlement agreement because Brewer was sued in her capacity as mayor. During the discussion about the agreement and an supplemental appropriation for special legal fees totaling $100,000, some residents questioned the appropriation.

ExploreLebanon mayor sued in federal court for blocking business owners from her social media page

A settlement was reached last week, said Mark Yurick, Lebanon’s law director. He called it a “dollars and cents decision.” He said the city had some unanticipated legal issues to address.

In addition, Yurick said it was responsible to seek the supplemental appropriation now rather than at the end of the year. Plaintiffs Kevin Snowden, Oley Snowden and Jennifer Waters, also known as Kristi Waters, alleged that Brewer, in her official capacity as Lebanon’s mayor, blocked them from her personal Facebook profile, and alleged she violated federal law.

However, because Brewer had said prior to the initiation of the litigation, she decided to retire from public office and as a result, will vacate her office on or before January 2021, thereby potentially rendering some or all of the relief sought by plaintiffs in the litigation as moot. The parties desire to settle and resolve all disputes and claims, which have been or could have been asserted between them in the litigation.

As part of the settlement agreement, the parties mutually released and forever discharge each other on future claims. However, the limited release only includes claims that were asserted in the litigation or that arise out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the litigation.

The city will pay Engel & Martin $15,000 and reimburse them for $402 in filing fees, and be responsible for any other court and transcript costs.

In addition, the parties agree that nothing herein shall be construed or interpreted as an admission or acknowledgment by any of them of any liability, wrongdoing, or violation of any applicable law, and that nothing in this agreement shall be so construed by any other person.

The agreement said the parties acknowledge and agree that the court has not ordered Brewer to unblock the plaintiffs or any other individuals, and that no term or provision of this Agreement or any other agreement requires defendant to unblock plaintiffs from any social media platform, including but not limited to her Facebook page.

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The parties also agreed not to participate in any action, or make any statement of any type, that disparages any other party, or any business owned or operated by any other party. Disparaging remarks, comments or statements are those that impugn the character, honesty, integrity or morality of another party or which would be perceived by a reasonable person as casting a party in a bad light.

The Snowdens co-own Lebanon Candy and Sports Cards on Mulberry Street, and are active in local politics and have a particular interest in the actions of the city, according to the lawsuit. They were friends with Brewer for many years in “real life” and on Facebook, the lawsuit said.

In June 2020, the city blocked off the street in front of their business to create a socially distanced dining area during the pandemic in the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area. Oley Snowden called Brewer to complain about the impact on their business. After harsh words were exchanged, the lawsuit claims Brewer hung up and the Snowdens have not talked to Brewer since that conversation.

In federal court records filed in late July, Brewer and two others filed affidavits saying that the Snowdens allegedly threatened her personal safety with bodily harm.

In May 2020, it was alleged in court documents that Oley Snowden said that Brewer needed to die, and had asked an unidentified person if they knew of anyone “who would have Brewer killed for $10,000.”

Snowden’s attorney, Joshua Engel, denied his client made those threats. Engel said if someone is threatened, they should call police, not to block them on Facebook. Engel said the alleged threat was not heard directly from Brewer and the other two people who claimed that are in separate lawsuits with the Snowdens in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

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