Salard sues for Facebook defamation
A lawsuit filed in Wrangell’s First District Court by Dr. Greg Salard and his wife, Laura Salard, is seeking monetary damages and attorney fees in a defamation case against a longtime Wrangell resident.
The case, which was initially filed on July 13, alleges that Lisa Gillen made statements in an online chat session about the physician, his family, and his ability to practice medicine. The filing also seeks damages exceeding $50,000, the Salard’s attorney fees, and any other relief the court may see fit to award.
Attorney Michael Nash, who is representing the Salards, said Gillen has made it difficult for the physician to practice in Wrangell due to the online conversations she is alleged to have engaged in on the Facebook network.
“Ms. Gillen has interfered with the relationship between Dr. Salard and one or more of his patients,” Nash said. “She has done so by sending false information via the Internet.”
An amended complaint filed on July 23 contains what appears to be a private Facebook chat conversation between Gillen and fellow Wrangellite Jasmine Clyburn attached as an exhibit.
In the exhibit, Gillen appears to ask Clyburn to spread information about Salard’s loss of privileging at Wrangell Medical Center – and the custody status of three of his children.
“Let April and Tammy and everyone for that matter know that the Dr. that lost his privleges (sic) (Salard) also has a 10, 12, and 14 year old that the courts have banned him from seeing until they are 18…so dont (sic) go to him..he sent a boy home after he hung himself without so much as a check up! that is against the law right there not to do a 24 hour watch on the kid,” stated an alleged posting by Gillen dated June 23.
Gillen said she did not slander Salard – and that her communications with Clyburn were private and protected as free speech.
“I didn’t post this on Facebook, it was a private chat between only Jasmine and me,” Gillen said. “The reason I did this is to let her know about publicly available information, and to help protect the people of Wrangell.”
The suit also alleges that Clyburn offered to share records of the private chat between her and Gillen to the Salards – via Wrangell resident Ryan Wenzel.
“Also meant tell you I don’t mind if you share this with them if you wanted,” Clyburn is alleged to have stated to Wenzel in a Facebook chat session.
Wenzel, who was one of the main forces behind the recent Wrangell Medical Board of Directors recall effort, said Clyburn provided information to him about the chats on the social network– and that he then gave that information to the Salards and Nash.
“I was contacted by Jasmine, who told me that Lisa had been giving her some information that Greg Salard had committed some sex offenses against his children,” Wenzel said. “Gillen also told her, Jasmine, that she should not be going to him as a doctor.”
According to Wenzel, Clyburn forwarded a series of documents available online which alleged Dr. Salard had committed those offenses while living in Arkansas and/or Louisiana with his former wife.
“I reviewed the documents online and realized they were some of the ones that were used in the lawsuit between Dr. Salard and the medical center, which are public record,” Wenzel added. “They reveal some pretty salacious accusations, but if you read far enough into them, the documents clearly state that the accusations against Salard were found to baseless and inaccurate.”
According to a Nov. 14, 2011 report by Juneau attorney E. Budd Simpson, which was commissioned by attorneys for WMC, those accusations were investigated by law enforcement agencies in both Arkansas and Louisiana, and Simpson stated that while, “Police investigators believed the testimony of the alleged victim and former wife; Prosecutors have declined to bring criminal charges; And the proceeding where both sides presented evidence resulted in a ruling that (Salard’s child’s) testimony was not credible.”
The Office of Appeals and Hearings of the Arkansas Department of Human Services cleared Dr. Salard in Dec. 2009 of any allegations or wrongdoing. The decision prevented his name from being placed on an Arkansas child maltreatment database – a move that had been requested by the Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Division.
Salard, for his part, stands by what he calls his complete innocence in the matter.
“I have already been completely cleared and it’s getting old, this coming up over and over again,” Dr. Salard said. “Most of the people in Wrangell know this is not true and I will not stand idly by while people bring up slanderous statements against me and my family.”
He also added that he feels there are ulterior motives behind the accusations stemming from his divorce and custody issues.
“They are attacking me because (they) lost the WMC recall election,” Salard added. “That is their primary motivation, I think.”
Gillen, who plans on representing herself in court for now, said she is fighting the charges and doubts the Salards have a case against her.
“The statements I made were in a private context on Facebook with one other person, and not posted for everyone to see,” Gillen added. “That is why I’m standing up to this silly lawsuit.”
Gillen has until early August to respond to the complaint in First District Court.