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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: S.L.A.P.P. SUIT CHARGING LIBEL IS DISMISSED.

Concrete plant owner apologizes, admits libel charges were groundless


Asheville, North Carolina May 1, 2012 - The charges of libel against the North Buncombe Association of Concerned Citizens (NBACC) and Aaron Pohl-Zaretsky were dismissed today. These charges were brought by Mark Turner following the filing of a complaint by Aaron PohlZaretsky against Blue Ridge Concrete Company (BRC) charging that Blue Ridge Concrete had begun construction without a permit. The Western North Carolina Air Quality Agency, (WNCAQA), affirmed the validity of the complaint and fined Blue Ridge Concrete over $1,000. The subpoena that informed Pohl-Zaretsky and NBACC of the libel suit was delivered on the afternoon of a public hearing before the WNCAQA where over 200 North Buncombe residents attended to express their opposition to the siting of the concrete plant in a residential neighborhood on a narrow, curvy, steep road that was shared with numerous school buses. Pohl-Zaretsky had charged that the libel suit was in fact a SLAPP suit A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. This kind of suit is sometimes used by developers to squelch public opposition to their projects by forcing citizens to spend time and money to defend their First Amendment rights to speak out. A Joint Statement in Settlement of Litigation attached to the court dismissal order filed today stated in part: As part of NBACCs public opposition to the permitting and construction of a concrete plant by BRC in northern Buncombe County, NBACC published and disseminated on its website a cartoon image and a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency that BRC and Turner alleged were false, misleading, and defamatory. NBACC contended that the cartoon image was merely the expression of its opinion as to the potential danger of a collision between a school bus and a concrete truck were the plant to be built, and that the letter to the EPA was truthful and fell well within NBACCs constitutionally protected right to communicate its grievances to the government. Additionally, NBACC and Pohl-Zaretsky contended that the materials were not defamatory within the meaning of the law. BRC and Turner recognize that NBACC and its members, including Pohl-Zaretsky, care very deeply about the North Buncombe community and used the materials as part of the public debate to express their concern about the impact of the BRC plant. NBACC and its representatives are steadfast advocates for the citizens of the North Buncombe community and for the preservation of the areas natural resources and scenic beauty. BRC and Turner acknowledge that NBACC and its members, including Pohl-Zaretsky, have a right to advocate their position on matters of public interest, and that the expression of their views in this case was protected by law and did not violate any of BRCs or Turners rights. In particular, BRC and Turner acknowledge that in

the past, there have been at least some administrative proceedings or issues involving other concrete plants owned (in whole or in part) by Turner that a reasonable person could have construed as complaints, as that term was used in NBACCs letter to the EPA; and that the cartoon was a fanciful depiction of a potential collision between a school bus and a concrete truck that was intended to illustrate the danger, from NBACCs point of view, of the establishment of a concrete plant on a narrow rural road in the vicinity of several schools. BRC and Turner recognize that Pohl-Zaretsky and NBACC have been put to considerable expense in having to defend this lawsuit, which BRC and Turner deeply regret. BRC and Turner apologize to both Pohl-Zaretsky (who was named individually in the lawsuit) and to NBACC and its members for the expense, inconvenience, and potential chilling of their right of advocacy that this lawsuit has caused. Currently, a majority of states have laws that prohibit the filing of a SLAPP suit. North Carolina is in the minority in not providing its citizens with that legal protection. Representative Susan Fisher introduced an anti-SLAPP suit law in the state legislature this year but it was not permitted to be voted on. Pohl-Zaretsky said This is a true vindication and triumph for our community, however, the real victory will not occur however, until citizens of North Carolina are permitted to express their opinion without having to live in fear of being sued. NBACC and Pohl-Zaretsky were represented by a team of attorneys headed by Frank Goldsmith. Goldsmith observed, "This lawsuit was baseless and should never have been filed. NBACC was clearly engaged in constitutionally protected public advocacy. The organization had a right to communicate its concerns to the Environmental Protection Agency. And the idea that a cartoon depicting a non-existent concrete truck endangering a school bus could somehow be libelous is really ludicrous. The cartoon was merely a graphic expression of NBACC's opinion, buttressed by data and expert testimony, of the danger presented by a concrete plant on a narrow rural road in the vicinity of several schools. It is not surprising that Blue Ridge Concrete ultimately decided to dismiss its case. The apology is appropriate, and we appreciate it." The Blue Ridge Concrete plant in North Buncombe closed 6 months ago due to lack of sales. +++ Attached: Joint Statement in Settlement of Litigation Joint Stipulation of Dismissal For more information, contact Aaron Pohl-Zaretsky (828) 645-9291 or Frank Goldsmith (828) 652-3000