Free speech was stifled, lawsuit target claims in counter suit

Kelly Holleran May 11, 2009, 5:49am

A woman claims she is afraid to speak up at county board meetings after a complaint was filed against her.

Sandra Baldwin filed a lawsuit May 5 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against SSM Contractors.

She says SSM filed a complaint against her on June 18, 2008, in which it alleged she was guilty of libel.

The lawsuit was dismissed on Oct. 28 on the basis of innocent construction, according to Baldwin's complaint.

After the lawsuit was filed, though, Baldwin says she is intimidated from speaking at county board meetings, refrained from speaking to the press about her opposition to SSM's requested zoning variance and stopped participating in her community group.

"Defendant's suit against plaintiff was brought maliciously, for the purpose of stifling her free speech against the zoning variance for certain real property, for which defendant was seeking approval from the St. Clair County Board," the suit states. "Defendant's suit had its desired impact on the plaintiff, and injured her in her right to free speech, and her right to participate in the public forum of County Board meetings."

Because of the suit filed against Baldwin, she claims she has suffered emotional distress, lost time and incurred attorney's fees.

Baldwin is seeking a judgment in excess of $50,000, plus costs.

Patricia A. Zimmer of Ripplinger and Zimmer in Belleville will be representing her.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-227.

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