A Red Lodge woman sued in January by the former town prosecutor says the suit was merely a way to silence criticism of a public figure, and it infringed on her free speech rights.
The suit, filed by Joel W. Todd, alleges Dimich and her sister, Mary Cameron, orchestrated a smear campaign that cost Todd reappointment as the contract city attorney. The suit alleges conspiracy, slander, libel and interference with a business relationship, and seeks $560,000 in punitive damages and lost wages.
Diane Dimich filed her response to the lawsuit on Tuesday in Carbon County District Court.
“On Jan. 8, 2018, Todd filed this baseless lawsuit with an ulterior purpose of harassing and intimidating Diane Dimich and silencing her,” the counterclaim reads.
Dimich is a member of the Red Lodge City Council and Cameron is the coordinator for the Carbon County DUI Task Force.
In her response, Dimich denied that she conspired with her sister to damage the reputation of Todd. She noted she believed the statements she made about Todd to be true, and that she had concerns about his actions as city attorney.
Dimich also said her actions didn’t meet the legal definition for slander or libel.
Todd was a public figure, and Dimich had a right to criticize his actions in that capacity, Dimich argued. Todd must prove she acted with actual malice.
“Todd has no valid legal claim against Dimich and he knows it,” the response read.
Todd’s complaint began with a letter Dimich wrote in February 2016 accusing Todd of coordinating with the Red Lodge Police Department to “harass, intimidate and threaten” the sisters with the goal of quieting their public criticism of Todd and the police department. The letter was addressed to “numerous members of the general public” in Red Lodge and Carbon County, the complaint states.
That same month, a woman from nearby Bearcreek sued Red Lodge, claiming her home was illegally searched and she was injured a few weeks before when Red Lodge police executed a search warrant at her home in a drug investigation.
Todd and the police department received pushback for the incident from the Carbon County attorney and sheriff, who said the Red Lodge police force should have received approval from the sheriff’s office before executing a search warrant outside of the town. Bearcreek does not have its own police department.
Todd has said the city and police department did nothing wrong.
Dimich is listed as one of six members of the Red Lodge Community Oversight Representatives, which bills itself as a watchdog on local government and law enforcement.
Dimich accuses Todd of one count of abuse of process, and asks for punitive and compensatory damages.
Cameron, Dimich’s sister, is represented by attorney Ben Sather, of Billings. Cameron’s response had not yet been filed as of Thursday morning.