In one of the most bizarre cases of he said, she said in Queens politics, city council candidate and longtime community activist Joyce Shepard filed a $10 million lawsuit against her former campaign manager last week after he created an allegedly defamatory website about her.
Shepard, a Bay Terrace resident, is one of five Democrats running for City Councilman Mike Abels (R-Bayside) seat and the only woman in the race.
Her lawyer, Harry Kresky, said in a telephone interview Tuesday the lawsuit filed July 12 and seeking $10 million in damages charged Shepards former campaign manager, Jack Ballinger of Brooklyn, with maliciously attempting to destroy Ms. Shepard through his website.
Ballinger maintained this week that the material in his website, www.baltech.org, was true and challenged Shepard to a lie detector test to see who is telling the truth about the charges in Shepards lawsuit. Ballinger said Tuesday the number of people who have visited the website, which went on line May 30, has more than quadrupled since the conflict became public.
Long regarded as an outspoken activist with a tendency toward public outburst, Shepard has fought against the spraying of pesticides in the campaign against the West Nile virus and has been involved in keeping Baysides Fort Totten open to the public, among other issues.
In his website, Ballinger makes public nearly a dozen e-mails from Shepard written and sent during his employment with her city council campaign. According to Shepards lawsuit, Ballinger originally designed the website for her campaign when the two had a falling out and Ballinger turned the site into baltech.org.
In a May 16 e-mail, Shepard wrote of a former campaign employee hes a weasel. Dont let him weasel out of this and dont let him attempt to turn you off, according to the website.
In another e-mail dated May 20, Shepard wrote politics is so scummy. I will scrape the scum from the top down when elected, the website said.
While Ballinger said Tuesday he was fired from the campaign and Shepard said the Brooklyn resident quit, both agreed Ballinger served as campaign manager for roughly three weeks in May. The two disagree on how Ballinger came to the Shepard campaign, with the Brooklynite claiming Shepard courted him despite his protests that he would not be a good campaign manager and the candidate saying Ballinger approached her.
In addition to the e-mails, Ballinger has continued to post material related to the lawsuit on the website, including letters from Kresky and the lawsuit itself as well as links to newspaper articles critical of Shepard.
The main page of the site features a large headshot of Shepard, her campaign e-mail address, and what Shepard said is an incorrect phone number for her campaign headquarters.
The lawsuit outlines some of Ballingers accusations against Shepard, including claims that she allegedly fabricated a story about receiving harassing phone calls at her home and that she offered to let him run her district office if she was elected to the City Council.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Shepard said she had no idea why her relationship with Ballinger went sour but did not deny writing the posted e-mails or offering him a job in her district office if she were elected.
Whats wrong with the e-mails? she said. That they say politics is scummy. Ive been saying that verbally for years.
In terms of the job offer, Shepard said she was initially so impressed with Ballinger that she nonchalantly said when I get elected, youve got a job running my district office.
Spokesmen for both the state and city Board of Elections said Tuesday there was nothing illegal about Shepards offer to Ballinger.
Shepard told the TimesLedger that Ballinger portrayed himself as a political insider who could help with her first campaign. Later on, according to the lawsuit, Shepard was unhappy with Ballingers work and his tendency to become frustrated when other volunteers became more active in her campaign.
Ballinger claimed he never told Shepard he was a political insider. Ballinger told the TimesLedger he had minimal political experience, once worked in 1964 for an opponent of Tom Manton, who ran for Congress and is now the head of the Queens County Democratic Party, and in 1992 handed out fliers for Bill Clintons presidential campaign.
He decided to create his anti-Shepard website, Ballinger said, after their disagreement when she allegedly threatened to ruin him. Shepard contended she never threatened to ruin Ballinger after he left her campaign.
Ballinger was Shepards second campaign manager since she announced her candidacy in May 2000. The first campaign manager quit after five months, Shepard said, because the two had a falling out.
While Ballinger and Shepard have been battling, political insiders said this week the situation was unique.
Evan Stavisky, a political consultant and son of state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), said: Ive never seen anything like it. There were certainly some very serious allegations in there.
Jim Wrynn, a Democratic district leader in the northeast Queens area, said he had been away since the dispute turned public and was not aware of the specifics of the situation.
This is pretty new to the campaign world, he said of the political brouhaha being played out on the Internet. Its unfortunate.
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2001 Community News Group
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