Linda Miller, a 12-year employee for the Exeter District Ambulance (EDA,) has threatened to sue former paramedic Jennifer Rios for slander and libel.
Miller is a billing clerk for EDA and the wife of embattled board member Tony Miller.
Rios recently sued the EDA for wrongful termination, back pay and benefits.
The Dias Law Firm in Hanford, which represents Linda Miller, sent a “Cease and Desist Demand” letter to the Melo and Sarsfield Law Firm, in Visalia.
Melo and Sarsfield are representing Rios in her case against the EDA. The Dias Law Firm claims that Rios’ lawsuit falsely states that Miller “engaged in unsavory and illegal practices.”
“With review of the facts of this case, we are certain that an action against your client for these false statements would be successful. Ms. Miller is determined to make sure that all defamatory statements immediately cease including the bringing of an action against your client,” the letter states.
Maggie Melo, from the Melo and Sarsfield Law Firm stated that Rios’ comments are not slander if they are true.
Melo also pointed out that Miller has put herself out in the public when she wrote a letter to the editor in May of this year.
Miller stated in her letter to the Foothills Sun Gazette, “Dear Editor and Community of Exeter” when writing about her employment at the EDA.
On November 28, Rios filed her suit against the EDA naming the Exeter District Ambulance, board members Tony Miller and Darinda Kunkel, and office manager TJ Fischer.
Rios believes the district fired her in retaliation for reporting that board member Tony Miller had engaged in criminal wrongdoing at the district office. She also believes that her firing was to punish her for her involvement in the recall campaigns against board members Miller and Kunkle.
Rios claims in her lawsuit that Mrs. Miller might have been involved with removing files from the EDA office and then tampering with their contents. Her lawsuit also alleges that Mrs. Miller was an expert into getting into the office safe where the narcotics were kept, implying that she had something to do with their theft.
Miller’s lawyer says that Rios’ statements are false and falsely accuse their client of serious crimes.
Their “cease and desist” letter states that Rios has been making false statements “around town” and on social media sites. The letter also accuses Rios of “attempting to litigate her case in the newspapers.”
Dias Law Firm sent a copy of the letter to the Valley Voice and the Foothills Sun Gazette.
The law firm demands that Rios, and all those acting on her behalf, immediately cease and desist in making slanderous comments “of which have had a devastating impact to Ms. Miller’s reputation in the mall community of Exeter. Ms. Miller is suffering from a very real emotional distress due to Ms. Rios’ unlawful actions.”
“Prior to your client’s false allegations against Ms. Miller, my client enjoyed a sterling reputation, both personally and professionally.” The letter continues, “As you know, Exeter is a small town of about 10,000 persons. Allegations of criminal wrongdoing-even when false and even when late redacted by the local papers- hang in the air and continue to do damage to one’s reputation. For this reason, my client is willing to litigate this matter.”
The Dias Law Firm requested Melo and Sarsfield respond to their demands within the week.
Melo responded the same day stating,
“Ms. Rios is not going to stop speaking out about the corrupt activities at the EDA, the elected officials who run the board, or the alleged mismanagement and malfeasance that is occurring to the detriment of the taxpayers.”
Melo stated in the reply that Rios’ statements are privileged under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
“As I am sure you are aware, our client is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as the Anti-SLAPP provisions of California law,” said Melo.
“What is clear is that your client, and presumably the elected board of directors of the EDA, does not like the public scrutiny it is finally receiving.”
In reference to the impending court date Melo added, “I do look forward to taking Ms. Miller’s deposition in the Rios lawsuit. Can we arrange her attendance through your office? Until then, best wishes for the Holiday Season.”
In another twist to the turmoil surrounding the EDA, its website has been locked from public entry by a password. The EDA website is an Exeter taxpayer-funded site and should be accessible to all residents.
The EDA has also cleaned its Facebook page of all relevant comments and reviews. According to the current rendition of its Facebook, EDA has five stars and very few posts after years of turmoil and many board and staff resignations.
John Sarsfield, one of the lawyers representing Rios, said that websites and facebooks fall under the Public Records Act. The information on both sites are public records and thus public property.
Like emails, it is unlawful to destroy public information.
“A public entity is required to preserve records for five years,” said Sarsfield.