Court dismisses lawsuit against Ellwood City over Facebook page – Ellwood City Ledger


Lawrence County Court has dismissed a lawsuit against Ellwood City over a social media page a resident had challenged as a public site.

NEW CASTLE — Lawrence County Court has dismissed a lawsuit against Ellwood City over a social media page a resident had challenged as a public site.

In its Jan. 9 ruling, the court said the borough had done everything it could to procure the information sought by resident Jan Williams on a Facebook page run in the names of two council members.

The court also allowed subpoenas from the borough to stand on council members Rob Brough and Lisa Guerrera, who were at the center of the dispute, but noted the matter was moot since the case was dismissed.

Adrienne Langer, attorney for Willams, said Monday her client was given 30 days from the ruling to file an appeal. She said Williams had not reached out to her yet on whether she plans to continue or drop the case.

The case, which hinged on what the definition of a public social media site is, began in January 2019 when Williams filed a Right to Know request with the borough over the “Ellwood City Council-Rob Brough and Lisa Guerrera” Facebook page after the pair posted a message attacking other council members over their vote involving assistance to embattled Ellwood City Medical Center workers.

Williams, who was in the midst of a ultimately unsuccessful run for a Democratic nomination to Ellwood City Council, requested deleted comments from the Jan. 21 post on the page and a list of all blocked and banned users who were unable to see or make comments on the post.

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The borough responded that it could not comply because it does not have control of the site, so Williams appealed the decision to the state’s Office of Open Records, which ruled Feb. 22 that the borough had not proved the information should be exempt from public-records law.

Williams filed a lawsuit in Lawrence County in May after the borough could not comply with the ruling, continuing to assert the web page is run in a matter that makes it look like it is an official borough site, including a lead photo of the municipal building and discussions of ongoing borough business by active council members.

Council voted to ask Brough and Guerrera to voluntarily turn over the information and in August issued subpoenas to the pair seeking compliance. However, they responded with an affidavit signed by resident Eric Gordon that they also do not have control of the site. Gordon said the site is owned and maintained by the Accountable Leadership Political Action Committee.

The court determined Elwood City had done everything in its power to comply with the state open records ruling and thus could not be held responsible.



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