SCIOTO — A local business owner is seeking legal action against former Scioto County Commissioner candidate Matt Seifert, claiming that damages were made to her company and reputation by comments made during a Facebook livestream.
Audrey Stratton, a senior at Shawnee State University and owner of Appalachian Marketing Media, filed her civil case against Seifert Oct. 28 with the following charges:
- Complaint for Defamation
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
- Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
- Tortious Interference with Business Relationships
Representing Stratton in the matter is local attorney Shawn Stratton, who delivered this statement:
“My client has made it a point of being an honest, hardworking example of a modern businesswoman. Mr. Seifert’s incorrect statements and lies threaten my client’s business. The days of arrogant political ambition of a select few are over. Candidates for public office will conduct themself with integrity in the public sphere, or we will hold them accountable. Our goal here is to hold Mr. Seifert accountable for his terrible actions against my client.”
The instance in reference is a Sept. 15 Seifert video titled “Drain the Swamp” where he questioned the credibility of AMM, which began operations in June. AMM had been contracted by the Commissioners to build their new website just 12 days earlier during its Thursday, Sept. 3, session.
During that meeting, Commissioner Bryan Davis said their website, believed to be 13 or 14 years old, would receive a highly necessary update through the contract and hopefully attract business and tourism into the county.
“It will be very comprehensive and linked to many community organizations and activities,” said Davis, the final product posted on Facebook Oct. 21. “It will make it easier for that communication to happen.”
While agreeing with the need for a new website, Seifert’s main issues with the agreement were how the company had no site of its own and how it used the website-builder Wix, which allows users to work from a template without coding skills.
“We’re willing to spend thousands of dollars on a company that no track record and no current website to build our website,” said Seifert, the final cost confirmed to be $4,000 by Davis. “That makes no sense to me. Is that doing the best for our county? I don’t think so.”
The comments received condemnation from the public in the days following, including AMM and Seifert’s opponent Commissioner Mike Crabtree.
“Look, I understand the negative politics. It’s all he has. I’ve seen it before. But he crossed a line this past week,” said Crabtree in a Sept. 20 Facebook post. “Attack me, fine. I can handle it. He should know you don’t attack young adults trying to make our area better. That’s just plain wrong. It’s dirty politics and slander.”
Defending its record and providing details on its work so far, AMM also responded on Facebook on Sept. 17. The company said its reasons behind not building its own website and using Wix came down to time restraints and being cost-effective.
“We are excited to bring life to this hurting community in the way of technology and online resources and will continue to serve Scioto County and the Appalachian region for many years to come,” read the AMM statement, adding they had designed the websites for the Scioto County Republicans and Live2BFit Studio.
Seifert later did apologize to Audrey Stratton, saying he had gone too far with his comments on her and other area young people and wanted his point to be more on the Commissioners’ appointing process.
“I think it’s important to be held accountable when you make wrong decisions,” he said in a Sept. 21 video. “Talking about them at length I did was definitely not the right decision.”
Although an attorney himself, Seifert will be represented by Rickey Faulkner and Robert Trujillo of the Faulkner Law Office based in Wheelersburg. The Portsmouth Daily Times reached out to the Faulkner Law Office for comment, but they did not respond prior to press time.
The case will be heard by Scioto County Court of Common Pleas Judge Howard Harcha. No hearing date has been scheduled as of Nov. 5.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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