Lawsuit against Lima councilor tossed

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — In a judgment entry filed July 31, the Allen County Court of Common Pleas agreed with a City of Lima motion filed on behalf of Councilor Jon Neeper arguing that Startup Lab Director Jermaine Harper’s case is “barred by the applicable statutes of limitations.”

Harper filed a defamation suit against Neeper at the end of June — one year and one month after the alleged comments were made. According to the judgment entry, that time period exceeds slander’s statute of limitations by a few weeks.

But while the judgment has been entered into the record, the case does not establish if the allegations against Neeper hold true.

According to the lawsuit filed by Harper, Neeper defamed Harper by claiming Harper was hired by the Walter C. Potts Entrepreneurial Center due to the urging of political forces, caused $12,000 to $15,000 to be missing from the Walter C. Potts Entrepreneurial Center and had been let go for failing to perform.

Neeper said he was pleased with the court’s findings. He would not comment on Harper’s claims.

In his original lawsuit, Harper alleged Neeper had committed slander, defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

When Neeper’s alleged comments were first made, Harper had been trying to secure $60,000 in CDBG funds to run the Startup Lab. The initial allocation, however, had been halved after multiple council members questioned the purpose of funding Harper’s nonprofit when other incubator programs — such as the Walter Potts Entrepreneur Center — had been working in the same sphere of helping low- to moderate-income individuals become entrepreneurs.

Harper’s lawsuit, however, spells out allegations that Neeper had been spreading false information at that time. According to Harper’s suit, Neeper had also alleged Harper had no business plan for his program; the applying for CDBG funds was a sham; and that Harper was just going to “take the money and run.”

Harper said he is considering further action.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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