Yesterday, Circuit Judge W. Joel Boles accepted a Voluntary Dismissal with Prejudice from former Escambia County Commissioner Gene Valentino in his defamation lawsuit against Commissioner Doug Underhill. Judge Boles had accepted a similar motion regarding, Ray Guillory, who was also a defendant in the lawsuit, on Feb. 23.
The lawsuit, filed in July 2017, alleged that Underhill and Guillory had defamed Valentino in a series of published on Facebook what appeared to be a transcript of messages exchanged between Guillory and Underhill in the months leading up to the 2014 GOP primary (8-36-51-607).
According to an email sent by the Underhill campaign, Judge Boles heard Underhill’s motion to dismiss on Feb. 6 and found in his favor on all four points of law that he contested. Valentino’s attorney, Greg Smith, was given 20 days to amend his complaint, but instead Valentino chose to drop the lawsuit. See Valentino Dismissal.
In his campaign’s email, Underhill commended Valentino for the “wisdom of his decision” saying, “The First Amendment right to speech exists first and foremost to empower Americans to criticize their elected leadership. Whether in my role as the vocal citizen or as the Commissioner facing criticism, I hold our Constitutional rights to be sacrosanct.”
He went on to point out that 2017 lawsuit was the second failed lawsuit that Valentino filed against him since the 2014 Republican Primary, in which Underhill beat the two-term incumbent, 2,788-1,672.
“Escambia County has proven in recent years that the voters are too sophisticated for negative campaigning,” Underhill said. “The personality-based politics, lies and innuendo, unfounded lawsuits and ethics charges, etc. are the tools of the past that were used to keep the citizens preoccupied while the government failed to do its job.”
He said his re-election campaign will focus public safety and infrastructure. He added, “Our budget failures, our infrastructure shortcomings, and our failure to fund public safety are reaching a boiling point in this county, and there is no appetite for personality-based politics.”
Press Release from Doug Underhill Campaign
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE