A judge has denied Mayor Louise Rishoff's request to dismiss a libel suit against her stemming from a 1989 recall attempt that targeted her and three other Agoura Hills City Council members.
Judge Haig Kehiayan of Van Nuys Superior Court ruled that the case must go to trial. No date has been set.
Jack W. Koenig, who was a council member in 1989, claims Rishoff libeled him by making public statements linking him to the recall group. In reality, he says, he supported his colleagues.
The recall attempt fizzled in May, 1989, after backers failed to gather enough signatures to force an election. Koenig alleges the negative publicity caused him to lose when he ran for reelection to the council later that year. Rishoff maintains that Koenig was a public official and consequently had less protection under libel laws.
Koenig's attorney called the judge's ruling a victory.
"It shows that we have enough evidence to present to a jury so that a jury could find in favor of Koenig," said Robert Guilford.
Rishoff, who is also an attorney, downplayed the ruling. "It was a procedural motion that . . . I filed," she said. "It was a request to short-circuit a trial."
The libel suit stems from statements by David Chagall, who started the recall effort in the fall of 1988. He accused Rishoff of numerous violations of the open meeting law.
Rishoff sued to make him prove his claims, but eventually dropped the case.
Paul Foote, a former recall supporter who defected from the group, signed a statement saying Chagall's statements were inspired by Koenig. After Rishoff repeated Foote's allegation, Koenig filed the libel suit.
Koenig said he has several people who will testify at the upcoming trial that he was not a recall supporter.
Rishoff, Koenig said, "is an attorney, and she sues people who don't agree with her. She plays with the courts, and she uses them politically."
Rishoff is also the subject of a current recall attempt against all five council members. The recall group has taken the city and Los Angeles County to court to force the two to validate a number of signatures that would have forced a recall election if they had been counted.