John Beaudoin, a freelance columnist for the Lee’s Summit Journal and its former publisher, has filed a lawsuit asking for more than $15,000 in actual and punitive damages against Lee’s Summit and two council members, alleging that they attempted to undermine his public relations business.
Beaudoin’s lawsuit contends he had a $1,000-a-month contract with the developers of Paragon Star for handling its public relations and that councilmen Chris Moreno and Dave Mosby interfered with his relationship with the developers, so they dropped his contract.
The two council members represent Lee’s Summit City Council District 4. Moreno faces a recall election in April.
Gene Graham Jr., Beaudoin’s lawyer, said often lawsuits are filed on testimony of plaintiffs, but this case is unusual because emails from Moreno and Mosby will substantiate what’s in the petition.
“It seems OK right now in our country to vilify journalists and people who work for newspapers,” Graham said. “It’s a sad thing indeed when politicians want to attack journalists and businesses.”
City Attorney Brian Head said, “The City, as always, will vigorously defend itself but cannot comment on the merits of any case while the litigation is pending.”
Mosby denies the allegations and Moreno declined to comment.
Paragon Star is a $212 million soccer complex and entertainment district at Interstate 470 and View High Drive being developed by a team put together by Lee’s Summit businessman Flip Short.
According to the lawsuit filed Feb. 9 in Jackson Count Circuit Court, Beaudoin and Paragon Star LLC. started a business relationship in July 2015. Beaudoin’s media relations company, John Beaudoin LLC, does business as KC Communications & Media Matters.
Beaudoin contends in the suit that as “a direct result of Moreno’s interference, Paragon Star terminated its business relationship with (Beaudoin) in late August 2016.” It said that the councilmen had “animus” toward Beaudoin and sought to undermine his business relationship with Paragon Star.
The agreement was ended in August 2016 following a phone call from Moreno and emails from Moreno and Mosby to team members, the suit alleges.
The suit also alleges that on April, 27, 2016, Moreno made a phone call to Bill Brown, a member of Paragon Star and also at the time board chairman of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council, asking Brown why Beaudoin was asking local union heads to disclose their donations for the April 5, 2016 elections. Moreno asked whether Beaudoin was doing so on behalf of the LSEDC or Paragon Star.
On Aug. 27, 2016, the suit said Moreno sent an email to Brown that said Moreno was “stunned” by Beaudoin’s Sunshine Law requests for information, saying that Beaudoin was trying to increase criticism of the council in his columns for the Journal.
The email read in part: “Because we have had such a great dialogue, I am giving you the benefit of the doubt that this was not authorized by your team, and necessary action is taken so that this body and our deliberation process can be done without fear of political repercussion, coercion or attacks.”
The suit said Mosby interfered with Beaudoin’s business, writing an August 2016 email that read under subject line: Vote Manipulation:
“I was advised that John Beaudoin has been using sunshine law to obtain results involving specific council members. He has been spouting on Facebook about his lust for reviewing them. I am not concerned about the emails or his sunshine law rights. However I am concerned about his connection with Paragon, Especially (sic) when combined with potential future council decision making. Is he trying to influence votes? I am of the opinion his actions could be viewed as some as extortion! Not a good feeling.”