Toms River councilman can settle ‘fake news’ lawsuit for $1 and retraction
TOMS RIVER — Tuesday's Toms River Council meeting was briefly interrupted when a councilman was publicly served with a lawsuit over a story on a website he owns.
The defamation lawsuit against Councilman Daniel Rodrick was filed by Brick resident Robyn Gedrich, who serves as the vice chairwoman of her township's Democratic organization and as a commissioner of the Brick Housing Authority.
Gedrich's lawsuit claims Rodrick is the owner of "several websites that purport to be political news sites," including the Ocean County Chronicle. The lawsuit claims that articles posted on sites Rodrick owns "typically contain false and misleading facts," and are "often used by Defendant Rodrick to promote his own political interests and to undermine his political enemies."
The focus of the lawsuit is an article on October 4 claiming she had she had been given a job with the township because of her political connections.
"The posting implies that Plaintiff obtained a public job because of her political involvement in the Democratic party, which is false and defamatory as it implies corruption and malfeasance," the lawsuit claims.
Mayor John Ducey confirmed to the Brick Shorebeat that Gedrich's role with the Brick Township Housing Authority is voluntary, and that she has not worked for the township in a paid capacity.
The lawsuit claims that Gedrich informed Rodrick of the "falseness of the allegation" when the post first was posted, but that the article has not been taken down. The lawsuit notes that the allegations are not connected to his role as a councilman, but rather "in his personal capacity."
Gedrich's lawyer Greg Cannon said in a statement to New Jersey 101.5 that the lawsuit "isn't about money."
"In fact, Ms. Gedrich is willing to settle this lawsuit for $1, complete removal of the 'fake news' stories and websites, and a written apology from Mr. Rodrick," Cannon said. "This lawsuit is about what's wrong with our political discourse — and holding people like Mr. Rodrick to account for what their twisted idea of politics is doing to good people in our country."
Rodrick switched to the Republican Party from the Democratic Party earlier this year after he was ousted from the committee's leader. One of the websites that the lawsuit says he owns described him as "an obvious front runner for Mayor."
Rodrick on Friday called the lawsuit "another democratic hit job."
"People are tired of the dirty smear tactics of the Democrats, which is why they’ve already suffered the defection of two councilmen here in Ocean County," he said in a written response. "And they’re still reeling from the endorsement of Republican Bob Hugin by Teddy Price, their Democratic freeholder candidate. They smeared Mr. Price and now they are smearing me."
The lawsuit also identifies Rodrick as the owner of the Brick Beacon and Toms River Weekly websites and the Jackson Watch, Brick Watch, Toms River Watch and Toms River Taxpayers pages on Facebook.
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