Developer sues Choctaw's mayor, city manager for defamation

Arkansas developer and the city of Choctaw are at odds over cost of 39-acre retail development known as Choctaw Town Square.
by Brianna Bailey Modified: March 9, 2014 at 12:10 am •  Published: March 8, 2014

— The developer once chosen by Choctaw city officials to build a 39-acre new town square has filed defamation lawsuits against the mayor and city manager.

In two separate lawsuits filed this week in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, Bentonville, Ark.-based Choctaw Town Square accuses Choctaw Mayor Randy Ross and City Manager Roger Nelson of making malicious, untrue statements about the developer to the local media.

Nelson was out of the office Friday and could not be reached for comment. Ross said he could not comment on the ongoing litigation.

“The latest papers our attorneys have filed speak for themselves,” Ross said.

The lawsuits were filed after a state audit of Choctaw Town Square published in November found that the developer billed the city more than $5.3 million, but provided detailed documentation to support only about a third of its expenditures.

In court documents, Choctaw Town Square accuses Nelson of saying inaccurately that the developer attempted to “stonewall” officials from the State Auditor and Inspector’s office.

The lawsuit claims Nelson made the statement with malice, exposing the developer to “public hatred, contempt, ridicule, criticism and disgrace.”

Nelson “knew the statement was untrue or entertained serious doubts as to its truth, reflecting a reckless disregard for truth or falsity,” the lawsuit claims.

In a separate lawsuit, Choctaw Town Square accuses Ross of making inaccurate statements about the audit to local media.

Ross allegedly referred to the audit in interviews with local media as a “performance audit,” when it was actually classified as a special audit, meaning the auditors did not apply certain government auditing standards to the examination.

Ross is a certified public accountant and the executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Accountancy, and would have been aware of the distinction between the two types of audits, Choctaw Town Square claims in its lawsuit.

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by Brianna Bailey
Business Writer
Brianna Bailey has lived in Idaho, Germany and Southern California, but Oklahoma is her adopted home. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Univerisity of Oklahoma and has worked at several newspapers in Oklahoma and Southern...
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