North Huntingdon firm alleges in lawsuit it was slandered by Monessen police chief
An Irwin area construction company contends it lost money and had its reputation damaged because of public comments Monessen’s police chief made following a hail storm last May.
Bella Construction & Development Inc. maintains in a 12-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that police Chief James Smith’s comments made in the Mon Valley Independent newspaper “defamed the company’s character” and broke business relationships the company had established there.
“(Bella) suffered great financial losses as a direct result of the defendant Smith’s interference in (Bella’s) previously established business relationships,” the lawsuit states.
The city of Monessen and Smith are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.
“There was no intent by the city or its chief of police to damage any business’ reputation here,” said Joseph R. Dalfonso, city solicitor with Dodaro Matta & Cambest in Pittsburgh. “The city is looking at defending itself against these allegations.”
According to the complaint filed Monday, the company was contracted by residents after a May 20 hail storm to do damage inspections and repair properties. In a July 2018 news article, Smith “publicly attacked the plaintiff’s reputation,” the lawsuit states.
In the article, Smith warned residents not to sign contracts or make insurance claims through companies soliciting in Monessen without first talking to the police department. The suit alleges Smith further requested anyone who came into contact with a company representative to call 911 and report the encounter.
“Plaintiff, as well as the general public, understood defendant Smith’s comments to be a reference to (Bella) and alleged unsavory and/or illegal activities committed by the plaintiff,” the lawsuit states.
Bella’s attorney Joel Sansone said in the lawsuit that after the article was published, several property owners dissolved their contracts with the company. The lawsuit states other Monessen-based companies that provided identical roofing and construction services were not barred from doing business in the city.
The lawsuit maintains Smith’s statements “painted (Bella) in a poor and false light to members of its community…”
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .