Brennler files anti-SLAPP motion against Torres
May 10, 2013
By CALCOASTNEWS STAFF
Mike Brennler’s attorney filed a motion to strike down a lawsuit filed against him by a Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) coordinator, citing laws enacted to stop people with deep pockets from attempting to silence their critics.
In March, Dee Torres, homeless services coordinator for CAPSLO, filed a slander lawsuit against private investigator Mike Brennler alleging that he slandered Torres in a telephone conversation with one of her former husbands. Brennler has been investigating Torres and others who provide services to the homeless in San Luis Obispo County in the aftermath of numerous claims of embezzlement.
Anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) legislation was enacted 20 years ago to help small defendants avoid harassment by better-funded plaintiffs. The motion is used to strike a complaint and can also lead to the plaintiff collecting attorney costs.
In this case, Brennler’s attorney Stew Jenkins cites the Sarbane-Oxley Act’s rules against threatening retaliation against witnesses providing information to law enforcement relating to the possible commission of a federal offence.
Brennler explains in the motion that he became aware of allegations of fraud against the homeless after reading a CalCoastNews exclusive about Cliff Anderson, a man who says his Social Security Disability income was mismanaged by his CAPSLO case manager and Family Ties’ payee.
After looking into the issues, Brennler volunteered to identify individuals who might have information about the management of homeless services for CalCoastNews reporters to interview. Brennler also volunteered to provide investigative services for a contemplated civil suit by Cliff Anderson and contacted law enforcement.
“Brennler contacted several federal and state law enforcement agencies requesting that they look into the matter,” the motion says. “Brennler commenced interviewing individuals, and seeking other information to provide contacts and witnesses who might have information relevant to the use of public funds and charitable donations to law enforcement to determine if those funds are being used in a lawful manner.”
Torres’ three-page suit claims that Brennler told Charles Barber that, “Torres has been stealing money from homeless clients at the homeless shelter and that Torres has stolen money from a homeless man named Cliff Anderson.”
In his response, Brennler denies telling Barber that Torres had stolen from Anderson and says that none of the statements he made during the two and a half minute phone call were false.