LIMA — Jermaine Harper, executive director of Urban Impact Ohio, is suing Lima councilor Jon Neeper in Allen County Common Pleas Court.
In a lawsuit Harper filed on his own behalf June 24, Harper accused Neeper of slander, defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He requested preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, as well as punitive damages and a monetary judgment of more than $25,000.
Besides monetary damages, Harper is asking a judge to keep Neeper from voting, participating in discussion or deliberation or otherwise using his authority or influence, formally or informally, in matters regarding any motion, resolution, resulting ordinance and any related procedural motions that arise under the Lima City Council parliamentary process or any nongovernmental entities official act concerning Harper’s business or proprietary information.
Harper declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Neeper didn’t return phone calls requesting comments about the lawsuit.
Harper sought and received Community Development Block Grant funds from Lima City Council to establish a Startup Lab to teach low to middle-income residents marketing basics and the legal necessities of starting a business while introducing them to capital resources such as microloans.
In the lawsuit, Harper contends that on May 19, 2018, Neeper made defamatory statements about Harper, claiming that Harper was hired by the Walter C. Potts Entrepreneurial Center because of pressure from Lima Mayor David Berger and the Lima Area Black Ministerial Alliance. Harper also alleged Neeper said Harper caused $12,000 to $15,000 to be missing from the Walter C. Potts Entrepreneurial Center. Harper also claims Neeper said Harper was let go from the Walter C. Potts Entrepreneurial Center for failure to perform.
The lawsuit also says Neeper alleged Harper didn’t have a business plan for his proposed program; that Harper’s program was a sham; and that Harper was just going to take the money and run.
Councilor Jamie Dixon made Harper aware of the comments on June 23, 2018, according to the lawsuit. Harper then issued a cease-and-desist letter to Neeper two days later. Dixon didn’t return calls for comment.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.