A Texas man who took out an ad that said a former mayor broke laws in a city land acquisition must pay damages of $50,000 and take out an ad that retracts his allegations as part of a settlement, The Keller Citizen reported.
Jack Brock placed an ad in the Citizen days prior to a 2007 mayoral election, accusing the incumbent, Keller Mayor Julie Tandy, of falsifying documents during a city proceeding that resulted in the acquisition of an easement on his land. Tandy lost re-election and sued Brock, who agreed to settle the case on the advice of counsel, according to the Citizen. In addition to the $50,000 sum, Broke must buy a $900 advertisement in the paper to retract the statements.
In order to prevail in a libel suit, public figures, such as elected officials, must prove that a defendant who made a false statement knew it was false or recklessly disregarded the truth – a standard the Supreme Court set forth in New York Times v. Sullivan. This actual malice standard is higher than those used for private figures, thus making it rare for public officials to prevail in defamation suits.