The Third Department determined statements posted on an election-related Facebook page by defendant, a Sheriff running for County Executive, concerning plaintiff, a Deputy County Executive also running for County Executive, were actionable in this defamation case. The court noted that the defendant’s appeal of the denial of his motion to strike certain paragraphs of the complaint (CPLR 3024) was not before the court because a motion for leave to appeal had not been made (CPLR 5701 [b] ):
… [W]e reject defendant’s contention that he is shielded from liability due to absolute immunity. This immunity protects government officials, such as defendant, “with respect to statements made during the discharge of those responsibilities about matters which come within the ambit of those duties” … . As such, plaintiff cannot maintain a defamation claim against defendant based upon statements “emanating from official reports and communications” … . Although defendant was commenting about an investigation being conducted by his office, as well as responding to attacks on the credibility of his office, the documentary evidence in the record establishes that the challenged statements were not posted on the official site of the Chemung County Sheriff. Rather, they were posted on defendant’s campaign Facebook page and another Internet website. Under these circumstances, defendant cannot rely on absolute immunity … .
… The statement that plaintiff was “pilfering free gas from taxpayers” is “susceptible to a defamatory meaning, inasmuch as [it] convey[s], at a minimum, serious impropriety and, at worst, criminal behavior” … . Such statement also “has a precise meaning that is capable of being proven true or false” … . …
The complaint alleged that defendant published the false statements and that they “were made in bad faith, with reckless disregard for the truth” and “tend[ed] to subject plaintiff to public contempt, ridicule, aversion, and disgrace.” In view of these allegations, as well as the specific statements at issue, we are satisfied that plaintiff sufficiently pleaded malice … . Krusen v Moss, 2019 NY Slip Op 05733, Third Dept 7-18-19