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  • Rich Klein

Judge Rejects Motion To Toss Defamation Suit Filed by Luis Alvarez Against Rob Doherty

County Officials Remain Silent About Whether Taxpayers Are Footing Bill For Doherty's Legal Defense

A State Supreme Court judge this week rejected a motion by County Legislature Chair Rob Doherty to throw out a defamation lawsuit filed last year by Luis Alvarez, who is a county legislator and the immediate past chair of the body.

Legislator Luis Alvarez , top row at center, can move forward with his lawsuit against Rob Doherty, second row at center, after a judge this week rejected Doherty's motion.

The suit, filed in March 2021, alleges that Doherty made a "libelous and false statement" online and also defamed him by spreading the lie that Alvarez used the "c" word in a meeting in late 2020 with former Health & Family Services Commissioner Stephanie Brown.

Alvarez has said repeatedly that he did not use the word but that he did at times express anger at Brown and others for the way his wife was being treated as a resident of The Care Center at Sunset Lake, an institution that Brown was in charge of at the time.

(See The SullivanTimes interview with Alvarez and his attorney Michael Sussman from January 2021 here).

Judge Kevin R. Bryant wrote:

"This Court has considered the comments made by Defendant ( Doherty) and finds that the comments are reasonably susceptible to a defamatory connotation. Whether the statements are untrue or whether Defendant had a reasonable basis to believe that they are true, the question of whether they rise to the level alleged by Plaintiff, is properly determined by a jury. "

But Bryant also criticized the court filings filed by Doherty's lawyers : "It is the finding of this Court that significant credibility questions are raised by the pleadings, affidavits, and exhibits."

Doherty was first elected chair of the Legislature in 2020, replacing Alvarez, and has regularly made public comments during legislative meetings that mocked his predecessor's track record. He has also spent considerable taxpayer time personally attacking Legislator Nadia Rajsz, in comments deemed by many as sexist, as well as Legislator Joe Perrello, who he called "a punk" three times at a public meeting. In February 2021, Rajsz called for Doherty to be censured and spoke at that time about Doherty's use of the taxpayer-funded county website to attack Alvarez publicly.

Soon after Doherty became chair, he appointed Michael McGuire as the County Attorney just after the State Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended that the former county court judge be removed from the bench. McGuire was officially removed by the New York Court of Appeals on August 26, 2020.

Since McGuire's appointment, he has acted much more as personal attorney for Doherty instead of the entire legislative body, as written in the County Attorney's job description.

The SullivanTimes had reported exclusively that Doherty is being represented in this case by Stephen Coffey, the same Albany-based attorney who represented McGuire when he was under investigation by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

It still remains unclear if Sullivan County taxpayers are footing the bill for Doherty's legal defense. Multiple requests made by The SullivanTimes to various County officials asking who is paying for Doherty's defense bills went unanswered.



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