GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Former South Carolina Department of Transportation chairman Mike Wooten filed a lawsuit against the political website FITSNews, accusing the site of libel.
The lawsuit references four articles published by FITSNews between November 2016 and July 2017.
In those articles, the lawsuit claims FITSNews wrote Wooten was “notoriously corrupt” and “unfit for public service.”
The lawsuit claims several statements made over that span were false, and they were published with “knowledge of its falsity or with a reckless disregard of its truth.”
Attorneys for Wooten said he has suffered actual damages, loss of his personal and business reputation, has suffered shame, embarrassment, mental suffering and emotional distress.
FITSNews responded to the lawsuit in an article on its site, which included this statement:
“There is a litany of investigative journalism and government oversight reporting that documents Mike Wooten’s ethically challenged tenure at SCDOT. Likewise, there is no shortage of editorial commentary on his tenure from other media outlets, elected officials and government watchdogs – including those who called on the former commissioner to resign due to ethical lapses, or those who referred to his actions in office as ‘corrupt’ or an ‘abuse of power.’ None of these facts are in dispute. In fact, the former commissioner himself admitted he was resigning his post at SCDOT because he wanted to continue making money off of taxpayers.”
“Cluttering our overburdened justice system with a nonsense libel suit demonstrates the former commissioner’s contempt for taxpayers has not abated since he stepped down. Furthermore, it shows he has absolutely no conception – or appreciation – of the First Amendment rights enjoyed by all citizens when it comes to criticizing our leaders on matters of public policy.”
In that article published Nov. 30, FITSNews claimed it hadn’t been served in connection with this action. However, the lawsuit is dated Nov. 16.
Wooten served four-and-a-half years on the SCDOT Commission, including some time as commissioner, before stepping down in June 2017.
The full lawsuit can be read below: