January 17, 2007
News-Review, Civiletti Sued for Libel
The controversy swirling around a Calverton sand mine has intensified.
Last week, Peter Sullivan, attorney for Michael Cholowsky, President of Calverton Industries and Emjay Environmental, Inc., announced he intended to sue the Mattituck-based publication, The News-Review, and its co-publisher, for libel.
The suit follows a column, "Stink, Stank, Stunk Again," and article "Who's Minding the Mine?" both written by Denise Civiletti in the December 14, 2006 issue of The News-Review, a Riverhead Town newspaper that the attorney said stated newspaper and Civiletti erroneously published a statement concerning his cooperation and plea in the Brookhaven landfill corruption scandal in 1999, as well as stating it had been established he permitted illegal dumping of hazardous material at the landfill.
In the lawsuit the attorney said Cholowsky would assert both published statements are untrue.
Civiletti, who had not seen the suit as of Monday, said via e-mail the press release announcing the suit "does not accurately state what The News-Review reported in its coverage of the Calverton Industries matter. It mischaracterizes what we reported and then says we got it wrong. We stand by the accuracy of the facts we reported."
Cholowsky believes those published statements prompted the issuance of a desk appearance ticket from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, alleging he offered a false instrument for filing. Cholowsky maintained he filed the correct documentation.
"The DEC charges are legally and factually incorrect," said Sullivan. "We expect that the matter will be resolved favorably for all concerned in short order."
Chowolsky also announced last week his intention to reject any deal and win at trial; next, he intends to file a malicious prosecution action.
The lawsuit also alleges that defendants in the suit were "especially reckless in that they were warned of the falsehoods by counsel for Mr. Cholowsky, Sullivan Gardner PC," according to a press release from the firm.
Cholowsky said this is the first time he has engaged in litigation with the publication and Civiletti. "The News-Review and Ms. Civiletti have published a series of vague and untrue character assassinations," said Cholowsky. "I sincerely believe that these personal attacks on me by the paper and certain public officials are in retribution for my criticism of the most significant policy error facing the Riverhead taxpayer: the $40 million landfill catastrophe."
On Monday, Civiletti responded by e-mail to inquiries regarding the alleged suit: "As of this date, January 15, we have not been served with any papers, nor have I been able to find any information about the existence of this suit on the Supreme Court of Suffolk County website. So I can't comment on the lawsuit."
In fact, Civiletti said "allegations that this newspaper intentionally reported inaccuracies are, in themselves, libelous."
Civiletti said Cholowsky "is working hard to try to discredit me and The News-Review, failing his attempt to prevent me from publishing articles about this."
The bottom line, said Civiletti, is that the story involves Cholowsky and Calverton Industries, and their operation of "a sand mine/reclamation operation in a special groundwater protection district." She charged there were "clear violations of the mining/reclamation permit condition intended to protect the drinking water aquifer by restricting this man's involvement in the solid waste industry."
As for Chowolsky, he believes the time has come to speak out. "Our client has sat quietly for almost two years while irresponsible and untrue comments have been made by people in the community," said Sullivan. "We are taking steps to ensure that the character assassination attempts stop. And we are taking further steps to ensure that the avoidance of the $40 million reclamation disaster by issuing untrue statements about our client stops, and the community begins to ask the questions: 'What happened to the $40 million? And where do we go from here?'"