Are City Council members subject to disciplinary/legal action if they engage in slander?

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Are City Council members subject to disciplinary/legal action if they engage in slander?

My husband is the IT Director for a small city in TX. Recently the Council wanted to explore the financial impact of outsourcing the IT administration as opposed to keeping it in-house. During the last council meeting in open session, my husband demonstrated the financial impact which was double what they were currently paying him. The meeting then devolved into baseless aspersions and outright lies about my husband’s performance which as I understand, exceeds their legal charter rights. Are these council members and the city itself subject to legal actions for their behavior?

Asked on September 26, 2010 under Personal Injury, Texas

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It would be very difficult to prevail in a lawsuit for defamation in this case for the following reasons:

First, the City Council members would have very broad protection under the First Amendment Freedom of Speech while they are participating in a legislative session such as a meeting of the City Council.  Statements that ordinarily would be considered defamatory would not be considered defamatory if made by members of a governmental body in a legislative session such as a meeting of the City Council.

Second, an additional problem in establishing defamation would be that since this was a public session, it could be argued that your husband is a public official or public figure just because of his participation in this meeting of the City Council.  As a public official or public figure, the standard of proof in a defamation case is much higher than for a private person.  A public figure has to prove intent in order to establish defamation.  Your husband's designation as a  public figure or public official would be based on his association with this newsworthy event (the public session of the City Council meeting).


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption