By Joe Beck -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- An attorney for a solar energy company and its founder-partners dropped a $40 million defamation lawsuit against three council members Thursday, but vowed he would refile the suit in a few months.
David W. Silek, who represents SolAVerde LLC, Donald F. Poe and Gregory A. Horton, said he had found two witnesses whose depositions would give him a better chance of winning the case than the current version.
Silek said both witnesses needed to give depositions before he would refile the suit, most likely in late winter or early spring.
Silek said the new suit would name the same three council members -- Thomas H. Sayre, Chris W. Holloway and Carson C. Lauder Jr. -- who are defendants in the suit that was dropped Thursday.
"We had two people come forward who heard statements that were not mentioned in the [current] complaint," Silek said, referring to his new witnesses.
He refused to identify either one.
Douglas Napier, the town's attorney, and George Sonnett Jr., the town's assistant attorney, said they were confident they would have won a decisive victory Thursday that would have ended the case once and for all before Silek withdrew it.
The defendants won one round earlier this year when retired Judge Paul M. Peatross of Albemarle County ruled that none of the three council members made defamatory statements about the plaintiffs.
"They were acting within the scope of their responsibilities" as council members, Napier said Thursday of the defendants' actions.
Silek later filed an amended complaint to continue the suit.
The plaintiffs were defamed when Holloway and Lauder inquired of former town attorney Thomas R. Robinett on March 30, 2010, if the "incentives" former Town Manager J. Michael Graham mentioned to the council on March 29, 2010, constituted a bribe being offered, Silek says in his original complaint.
Graham has said that he was never offered a bribe, Silek says in his amended claim.
Holloway, Lauder and Sayre also defamed his clients when they voted publicly for a state police investigation of the bribery allegation, Silek says.
The case was scheduled to be decided Thursday by Peatross in a hearing to determine whether the amended complaint in the lawsuit should be thrown out or upheld.
Napier said he was adopting a wait-and-see strategy in response to Silek's intentions of refiling the suit.
"We'll see what he does, and then we'll respond," Napier said.