Hearing set in libel suit against HB commissioner

Attorneys for John F. Agnelli Jr. are pushing forward on the libel lawsuit filed against Holmes Beach Commissioner Chair Jean Peelen, setting a court hearing in February on Peelen’s motion to dismiss.

“The motion is essentially a stalling tactic,” said Agnelli attorney Peter Mackey of Mackey Law Group, P.A., of Bradenton. “In my opinion the judge should deny the motion, and they’ll finally have to respond.”

Mackey said the court is backlogged on available hearing dates, and a motion filed without a notice of hearing further delays the case.

Peelen is being represented by Jay Daigneault of Frazier, Hubbard, Brandt, Trask and Yacavone, LLP, of Dunedin. He was assigned by the Florida League of Cities’ property and liability claims division under the city’s insurance.

Daigneault disagreed with Mackey’s interpretation of the notice issue. He filed the motion to dismiss two days after the amended complaint, and is not responsible for any delay, he said. It was a matter of scheduling with the coordination of the two attorneys and the court, he added.

The lawsuit was filed Oct. 9, after Peelen made comments in which she confused the identity of John F. Agnelli Jr. with his son, Frank Agnelli, in an emailed newsletter.

At a commission meeting the same day he filed the suit, John Agnelli criticized Peelen for a careless lack of regard for the truth. Peelen acknowledged the error to the email recipients and apologized to Agnelli at the meeting. Agnelli rebutted that Peelen’s comments could remain forever on the World Wide Web.

Agnelli’s first complaint named Peelen as an individual, but made allegations of libel against her as a commissioner.

Peelen’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss, contending state law provides immunity to public officials acting within the scope of their duties. Agnelli responded by amending his complaint to specify she defamed him in her individual capacity.

Daigneault moved to dismiss Agnelli’s amended complaint in November.

The hearing on the motion is set for 3:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7, in Courtroom 6E, 1051 Manatee Ave. W, Bradenton, before 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Diana Moreland.

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