Facebook politics

By Andy Balaskovitz

Republican drain commissioner candidate shuns his campaign manager’s tactics against incumbent Democrat Pat Lindemann, who is considering legal action.

Friday, Oct. 26 — One Facebook message is all it took for Timothy Grant to distance himself from his campaign manager and for Pat Lindemann to consider legal action against what could be defamatory statements.

Grant, the Republican candidate for Ingham County Drain Commissioner, said in a taped TV interview with City Pulse on Wednesday that his campaign manager, Republican strategist Jake Davison, resigned from the position after posting a Facebook message Tuesday calling on women to come forward if they have allegations of sexual harassment against Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann.

Davison, who is running for Ingham County treasurer, accuses Lindemann — in blunt language — of several instances of sexual harassment toward women. He claims to have personally spoken with “more than one woman” who could back up the claims.

Davison also said his firm, Advantage Associates, plans to launch a website where people can voice their allegations. The message generally appears as a call to action to “expose” Lindemann’s alleged improprieties. This afternoon, Davison created a Facebook page for a legal defense fund to prepare for a lawsuit.

As of this afternoon, Lindemann and his attorney, Michael Nichols, are still considering legal action due to the possibly defamatory nature of Davison’s post.

Legal action is “something that Pat and I are talking about,” Nichols said. “It’s a dilemma between do you give something like this more credibility by recognizing it and more credibility than it deserves? Then again, you don’t want people to think they can just run around and say things that are patently reckless and just silly.”

Nichols declined to comment on whether he thinks there is a case to be made, citing attorney-client confidentiality.

Jonathan Jorissen, an attorney with the Michigan Press Association, believes the Facebook post “could be defamatory,” despite the fact that Lindemann is a public official. Jorissen said some of the “buzz words” in the post are “the most problematic. It may also be problematic that it’s actively soliciting information.”

There is no evidence of Lindemann being convicted of sexual harassment. Lindemann said the county employee’s union has never filed formal grievances against him.

Davison said he based his Facebook post on testimony from several different women. A July Lansing State Journal story interviewed local attorney Lisa Babcock, who alleged Lindemann invited her to his hot tub and that landing contracted work through the Drain Commisioner’s Office depended on her willingness to join him. Lindemann denied the accusations to the Journal, saying Babcock misinterpreted the conversation.

Also, in 2011, an employee within the Drain Commissioner’s Office filed a complaint alleging sexual harassment by Lindemann. The Ingham County Human Resources Department concluded that the complaint did not meet the legal definition of sexual harassment, according to documents obtained by City Pulse through a FOIA request.

Meanwhile, Grant took time in a taped interview Wednesday (which will air on Sunday morning in Lansing and Meridian Township) to distance himself from Davison.

“When Jake brought this to me, I simply stated: ‘This is not where we’re gonna take this campaign,” Grant said. “If this is something you want to do separately, that’s where it’s gonna be. Who knows whether it’s true or not — I sure hope it’s not true for Pat’s sake and for the county’s sake.”

Lindemann flatly characterized Davison’s claim as “throwing mud.”

“This isn’t the American politics that I’ve grown to love and cherish and the public service I’ve tried to adhere to,” Lindemann said. “I’m proud of my record and I’m proud of who I am. If the Republican Party has to resort to that kind of mudslinging, then shame on the Republican Party.”