Attorney wants reporter’s notes

From the Idaho Falls Post Register
April 14, 2009

A lawyer for Thana Singarajah said that would help his case.

By HEATHER WELLS

An attorney for the former director of the Idaho Falls-based Family
Care Center believes notes from a Post Register reporter could help
his client’s case.

In a court hearing Monday, Michael Gaffney, Thana Singarajah’s
attorney, told a judge he wanted Corey Taule to hand over any
documents compiled during the course of his coverage of Singarajah’s
efforts to build Pearl House, a group home for troubled youths.

The story began five years ago when Singarajah, then the center’s
executive director, went public with his vision for an $8 million
facility on Hitt Road.

He envisioned a facility with 65 beds, office space for Family Care
Center staff, charter and vocational schools and a skate park.

But the project has had difficulties. Last year, the Idaho Department
of Commerce pulled a $650,000 grant intended to help build Pearl House
because the state agency had lost confidence in the project.

The Family Care Center board on March 10, 2008, stripped Singarajah of
his executive director duties “for a variety of reasons, including his
refusal to provide requested information to the Board,” according to
court documents.

The Post Register has written 11 stories about Singarajah in the past
year and a half.

In November, Singarajah sued Family Care Center and two members of its
board of directors, President Ron Carlson and Vice President Mike
Stamper, for defamation, invasion of privacy, breach of contract and
lost wages.

On Jan. 2, Family Care Center answered that suit. It denied all
charges and asked the court to dismiss Singarajah’s suit. Finally, the
center filed a counterclaim that details several counts of alleged
misconduct unearthed by a forensic audit that the center’s board of
directors ordered last year.

At Monday’s hearing, Gaffney was particularly interested in any
documents involving statements from Carlson that appeared in a May
article by Taule. The statements were defamatory, Gaffney said.

“I think the argument is fairly straightforward,” he said.

The Post Register’s attorney, Steve Wright, disagreed with Gaffney’s request.

“Clearly our key point is the Constitution protects the media from
being dragged into this type of dispute,” he said.

The solution is to ask the individuals about the statements attributed
to them, Wright said, and the Post Register should not be used as an
investigative arm in a case.

The judge said he’d take the motion under advisement.

From the Idaho Falls Post Register

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