A local attorney has filed a libel lawsuit against the Philadelphia Inquirer, it’s then-
owner and one of its reporters, claiming he was defamed in a front-page article the newspaper ran late last year that had to do with the plaintiff’s tenure as head of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority board.
Thomas A. Riley, Jr. claims in his filing, which was submitted June 18 at Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court by Philadelphia attorney Joe H. Tucker, Jr., that Philadelphia Media Inc., reporter Tom Infield and Journal Registry Property allegedly defamed him when the Inquirer published an article on Oct. 29, 2011, that called into question Riley’s conduct in relation to another lawsuit that had been filed by Madeline Apollo, the former CFO of the Convention Center, concerning her ousting from her position.
Apollo claimed wrongful termination in her suit, filed in federal court, but Riley’s civil action contends that a “plain reading of Apollo’s complaint shows that it is the fanciful ramblings of a disgruntled and discharged employee seeking to make outlandish allegations to cover her own wrongful conduct.”
In Apollo’s lawsuit, the former CFO also asserted that an employee of the Convention Center had caused the center to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend lawsuits brought against that employee, who was not identified.
And finally, Apollo’s suit alleged that Riley, in his position with the Convention Center, caused “hundreds of thousands of dollars of questionable legal fees to be paid” by the center, Riley’s suit says.
Apollo’s suit claimed that Riley diverted these legal bills from the Center’s normal review and approval process.
Riley’s lawsuit claims that the late October 2011 Inquirer article about the matter was intended to “injure Mr. Riley and to deprive him of his good name, fame, credit and reputation …”
The suit claims that Infield’s article was particularly defamatory when it mentioned a supposed allegation by Apollo that as former Convention Center board chairman, Riley helped direct “hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret legal fees to his personal law firm in Exton and then rubber stamped the bills himself.”
The suit claims that the article was printed above the fold in a clear attempt to draw readers’ attention.
Prior to the story’s publication, Riley’s suit states, Infield discussed the contents of Apollo’s complaint with Riley in an attempt to get both sides of the story.
At the time, however, Riley hadn’t himself read Apollo’s complaint.
Riley’s suit claims that the statements and charges mentioned in the newspaper article are false, and that Riley’s law firm never performed any legal services for the Convention Center.
“Mr. Riley has never directed even $1.00 of fees for legal services from the Convention Center to his law firm,” the lawsuit states. “The implication that Mr. Riley breached or violated any professional duty is also false.”
The suit goes on to state that while the article says as much, Apollo’s complaint never states that Riley ever directed any money to his personal law firm, “let alone ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars.’”
The lawsuit claims that prior to the newspaper article’s publication, Riley had never been accused of inappropriate conduct in his professional life.
“The statements in the article about Mr. Riley were intended to and did convey to the readers thereof, either directly or by implication, that Mr. Riley had engaged in criminal, illegal and/or unethical conduct at his position as Chairman of the Convention Center and had financially benefitted from such conduct,” the lawsuit states.
Journal Registry Property is included as a defendant in the lawsuit because MainLineMediaNews.com, a website it operates, subsequently republished portions of Infield’s article.
Riley later requested that the Inquirer print a correction relating to the allegedly false allegations in Infield’s article, something that the reporter agreed with, but that the retraction came in the form of a “non-descript and inconspicuous statement” on page 4 of the newspaper.
“The alleged retraction was hesitant and ambiguous and failed to clearly and unequivocally state that Mr. Riley had done nothing illegal, criminal or wrong,” the lawsuit states.
Riley seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
A jury trial has been demanded.
The case ID number is 120602207.