Political Ad Stirs Hodges to Sue

By Ralph Dummit Of the St. Charles Post | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 4, 1994 | Go to article overview

Political Ad Stirs Hodges to Sue


Ralph Dummit Of the St. Charles Post, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


A political ad has prompted James W. Hodges, the St. Charles County auditor, to file a libel suit against John Winkelmeier, the Democratic candidate for county assessor.

Also named as defendant is county treasurer Terry Alexander, who serves as treasurer for Winkelmeier's campaign committee.

The ad was placed Monday and Thursday in the St. Charles Post and was paid for by Winkelmeier's campaign committee. The suit was filed Wednesday in St. Charles County Circuit Court.

Winkelmeier said Thursday that he was not surprised that Hodges had sued. "It's only a matter of a few dollars to file a lawsuit," he said.

The target of the ad was Republican Gene Zimmerman, the county assessor who is Winkelmeier's opponent in the election. Hodges, a Republican, is not a candidate in Tuesday's general election.

Hodges is not mentioned by name in the ad, but the ad refers to the county auditor, the office Hodges has held since 1987. The ad alleges that Zimmerman "continues to pay the county auditor for computer work in violation of the county charter and state law."

Hodges' suit says the accusation is false and that the defendants knew that it was false or that they had the ad published "with reckless disregard for whether it was true or false at a time when defendants had serious doubt as to whether it was true."

The ad, Hodges asserts, damages his reputation by exposing him to a false public perception that he is engaged in criminal acts, thus holding him up "to contempt, ridicule and economic damage."

He is asking the court for punitive damages and compensation to pay attorney's fees and court costs "and for further relief as the court deems just and proper."

In an interview, Hodges, a computer programmer, said he "practically wrote" the personal property assessment system in Zimmerman's office before he was elected auditor. …

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