Former Vets Memorial director not falsely arrested or defamed, appeals court decides

Statements made against Craig constituted 'protected' free speech

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The former Cedar Rapids Veterans Memorial director was not falsely arrested, maliciously prosecuted or defamed after he was charged in 2009 with felonious misconduct in office only to have the charge dismissed, the Iowa Court of Appeals concluded this week.

The appellate court ruling in favor of the city of Cedar Rapids and against Gary Craig, 58, the city’s former Veterans Memorial director, affirmed an earlier Linn County District Court ruling.

In rejecting Craig’s claims against his former employer, the appellate court concluded that probable cause existed to arrest Craig so he could not have been falsely arrested or maliciously prosecuted. Any alleged defaming statements made against him were "opinion and therefore protected speech," the appellate court said.

The city's Veterans Memorial Commission put Craig on leave in October 2007 as it requested an outside audit by the Iowa State Auditor's Office to examine Craig’s handling of money.

After nearly 10 years in the job, Craig resigned March 1, 2008, citing job stress. The state audit report was released in January 2009, the results of which prompted the Iowa Attorney General’s Office to file the criminal charge against Craig in March 2009.

Subsequently, in November 2009, the Iowa Attorney General’s Office asked to dismiss the charge against Craig, citing new information that had come to light about the case during depositions. The court then dismissed the case.

The criminal charge had centered on the allegation that Craig had submitted false pay stubs based on information that he was working for another entity during city work hours. However, Craig was able to point to a resolution passed in 2000 by the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission, which noted that Craig worked more than 40 hours a week for the city and so was entitled to take leave time from city work to compensate him for the extra hours he put in, according to the appellate court ruling.

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