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Oyster Bay town employee files libel suit against candidate

Candidate for Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Robert Ripp

Candidate for Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Robert Ripp speaks during a candidates forum at the Hicksville Library, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

An Oyster Bay Town employee has filed a libel and defamation lawsuit against town supervisor candidate Robert Ripp in New York State Supreme Court.

The lawsuit, filed in Mineola on Wednesday, is the third libel suit brought against Ripp, of Massapequa, in 13 months.

Town employee Linda Herman alleges in her lawsuit that Ripp harassed her and slandered her in statements made in person on town property and in emails, Facebook posts and YouTube videos.

Ripp’s attorney, John Palmer of Mineola, said Thursday, “We intend to defend the lawsuit vigorously and assert the defense of truth.” Ripp, an independent candidate and frequent critic of town government, did not respond to requests for comment.

Herman’s lawsuit alleges that Ripp “regularly published and disseminated false and derogatory statements” about her, including allegations that she was “corrupt,” had committed crimes and falsified town records while working in the town clerk’s office handling Freedom of Information Law requests and taking meetings minutes.

“The plaintiff did not violate any law and did not commit any crime,” the lawsuit states.

The suit details more than two dozen incidents in which Ripp allegedly “bullied” her by making defamatory comments about her work on social media, by mass emails or in person in 2016 and 2017.

Herman’s attorney, Genevieve Lane Lopresti, of Seaford, said Herman “has been harassed by this person (Ripp) for some time and he was not stopping.”

Lopresti said Ripp’s behavior has caused Herman to suffer health problems and develop agoraphobia — a fear of crowded or enclosed public places. Ripp’s claims damaged Herman’s career and reputation, Lopresti said.

“When you allege that someone has committed a crime and they have not committed a crime — there’s a professional reputation,” Lopresti said. “If she ever seeks to pursue another job . . . You go on the internet and that’s the first place that an employer seeks to obtain information.”

In March, Herman changed jobs to work in a different department and “escape the torment of Ripp,” the suit alleges. Herman seeks unspecified damages.

A spokesman for the Oyster Bay Democrats said Herman is not related to Marc Herman, the party’s candidate for town supervisor.

In August, Massapequa Water District superintendent Stanley Carey filed a lawsuit against Ripp for libel and defamation. That case was filed in state Supreme Court then moved to federal court by Palmer and is currently awaiting a hearing on a motion by Carey’s attorney to move it back to state court. Contractor Sidney Bowne & Son LLP last year sued Ripp for libel and defamation in a case that has not been pursued but has not been dropped. All the cases involve social media posts by Ripp that plaintiffs allege were defamatory.

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