Environmental panel member sues over social media comments

AP News
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Posted: Mar 28, 2017 5:55 PM

BRIDGETON, N.J. (AP) — A member of a New Jersey environmental panel is suing 14 people over negative comments posted on her business Facebook pages regarding her support for a proposed natural gas pipeline that would cross a federally protected preserve.

Vineland resident Jane Jannarone filed her lawsuit in Cumberland County Superior Court last week, The Daily Journal reported (http://vineland.dj/2ngJc8i). She claims the posts intentionally damaged her real estate business and personal reputation.

"They went on (the social-media sites) and attacked my livelihood and they said a lot of things that were absolutely untrue," Jannarone said on Tuesday. "And none of these people have I ever done business with. And they're still going on, even after the suit. And frankly, it's quite intimidating. Someone who would post comments like that in print makes me nervous for my safety."

The lawsuit includes one social media post for each defendant it names. One commenter posted a rewrite of the classic Rolling Stones song "Sympathy for the Devil" that added references to Jannarone.

Jannarone is among the majority of Pinelands Commission members who voted to allow the South Jersey Gas project to move forward in February.

The utility wants to build a 22-mile pipeline that would cross through the federally protected Pinelands preserve.

The lawsuit accuses each defendant of defamation and illegally interfering with Jannarone's business, which she said caused her "extreme mental anguish and distress."

As an appointed state official and former Democratic freeholder in Cumberland County, Jannarone faces a higher burden of proof in a defamation lawsuit than if she were a private citizen.

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Information from: The (Vineland, N.J.) Daily Journal, http://www.thedailyjournal.com