Sansoni drops claim against Delahaye

DEIDRE CRUSE, Governmental Reporter

School Board Member Dorothy R. Sansoni has dropped her lawsuit against fellow Plaquemine Board Member Tom Delahaye, whom she alleged made defamatory statements against her at an April 2005 meeting.

Delahaye, who said he learned last week the suit was dropped, said Sansoni should pay the $25,000 the School Board spent to defend him against the “frivolous” lawsuit.

“The suit was frivolous, and I think she should reimburse the School Board for the $25,000 spent in defending the suit,” Delahaye told the POST/SOUTH.

Asked why she dropped the suit and for a response to Delahaye's suggestion, Sansoni said repeatedly she had no comment.

At Monday night's School Board meeting, where Sansoni raised questions about school finance, Delahaye repeated his call for Sansoni to pay the cost.

“Mr. Delahaye, in spite of it all, the Lord loves you, too,” Sansoni responded.

Sansoni filed suit in March 2006 seeking damages from Delahaye, claiming he made statements about her “are untrue, were made with malice, and were designed to paint [her] in a false light to the community that she has faithfully served.”

At an April 5, 2005 School Board meeting, the suit said, Delahaye  “without justification singled out [Sansoni] and called her a racist twice. Thereafter, petitioner's numerous attempts to obtain an apology from defendant went unheeded.”

“Since she dismissed her suit, obviously she agrees with me that she is a racist,” Delahaye said Monday.

“I am entitled to my First Amendment rights,” he said. “I expressed my opinion.”

At the time the suit was filed, Delahaye said school board members have immunity for things they say at official meetings. Also, he said, as a public official, Sansoni would have to prove “reckless disregard for the truth.”

In February, Sansoni's attorney, Dylan Utley of New Orleans, filed Sansoni's motion to dismiss her suit “with prejudice,” meaning she could not refile it. District Judge J. Robin Free signed an order dismissing the case with prejudice in March.