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Airport manager sues city council member for libel

Published On: Oct 30 2013 06:11:48 PM MDT
Updated On: Oct 30 2013 10:29:00 PM MDT
KALISPELL, Mont. -

There's a new twist in the controversy over the Kalispell city airport vote.

People will decide whether to approve a $16 million upgrade and expansion project.

But now, the airport manager is being accused by a city council member of “cooking the books” to get federal funding for the expansion. The airport manager fired back, with a lawsuit.

"Some things are worth fighting for.  Some things are worth protecting,” said attorney Connie Leistiko.  That's why she and her husband Fred Leistiko are suing city council member Phil Guiffrida for libel.

Leistiko is alleging that Guiffrida defamed his character in a letter that Guiffrida sent out to other city council members.

Guiffrida feels differently.

"The information that I've provided has been truthful to my knowledge to the research I've done on this issue," said Guiffrida.

"We know that Fred did not do what he was accused of in this email," Connie Leistiko said.

We took a look at the email sent out by Guiffrida, to see what some of the statements were.

One of them says the following: "The FAA relied on Leistiko's numbers in putting us on their list for federal reimbursement funding; we now know (and should have known then) that his numbers were grossly inflated."

Since this was sent with a city email account, those emails are public, allowing anyone access to them.

The email eventually trickled down from one person to another, before making its way to Fred Leistiko.

Guiffrida feels he did nothing wrong, and believes that the law suit was an attempt by Leistiko to swing voters on the airport issue his way.

"It's a political stunt, it's a hail Mary pass, it's an October surprise,” Guiffrida said.  “And to be perfectly honest with you, I'm not going to be bullied into submission."

Leistiko's top priority isn't money from the lawsuit; he just wants a retraction. But Guiffrida says that he doesn't plan on giving one.

Guiffrida has three weeks to answer to the lawsuit, where he can deny the charges, say he has no idea of the situation, or he can admit he was wrong.

When we asked Guiffrida what he plans on doing, he said he will not back down from the lawsuit.