LaMarque ISD trustee sues district police chief for defamation

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau May 13, 2009, 3:15pm

GALVESTON � A LaMarque school board trustee is suing the police chief of the La Marque Independent School District over some allegedly libelous remarks that were published in a local newspaper last year.

Cynthia Bell-Malveaux's defamation lawsuit, which was filed in Galveston County District Court on May 8, against

Cynthia Bell-Malveaux claims LaMarque ISD Police Chief Russel Washington repeatedly told the Galveston County Daily News in May 2008 that she abused her position as a school board trustee by stealing and misappropriating public funds.

Bell-Malveaux argues Washington lacked proof of any misconduct on her part.

"The defendant's statements are false, in that there is no theft or misappropriation of public funds, and the defendant never possessed any evidence or testimony of wrongdoing of the plaintiff," the suit says.

The complaint adds Washington was captured on tape telling another district employee about a few board members engaging in illegal activities.

The purported recording subsequently created tension between the board and the chief.

LMISD officials considered terminating Washington, but the board voted not to do so in July 2008.

Asserting the plaintiff does not have a criminal record, the suit alleges Washington knew his statements "contained falsehoods, but nevertheless caused these statements to be published maliciously and in complete disregard of the truth."

"The defendant made the statements set forth above with actual malice, in that the defendant knew, at the time the statements were published, that the statements were false, in that no evidence existed of any wrongdoing, and that there was no wrongdoing," the original petition states.

"In the alternative, the defendant made the statements about the plaintiff with reckless disregard for their falsity, in that these statements were made without any investigation into the use of public funds."

Bell-Malveaux says she suffered severe emotional distress as a result of the defendant's conduct.

"As a direct and proximate result of the publication and widespread circulation of the false, libelous material contained in the defendant's statements, the plaintiff has been held up to public contempt and ridicule among her constituents, colleagues, neighbors, business acquaintances, and other citizens, and has suffered business losses and endured great humiliation, shame, embarrassment, and mental pain and anguish," according to the suit.

Represented by Houston attorney Rich Melendez, Bell-Malveaux seeks a judgment against Washington and punitive damages as well as a jury trial.

Galveston County 212th District Court Judge Susan Criss is presiding over the case.

Case No. 09CV0678

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