LORAIN — The local gossip website Loraindirt.com is no longer dishing rumors about local politics.
The site ceased operating last week after Lorain attorney Anthony Giardini sent a letter threatening to sue Joyce Early, Denise Caruloff and Lorain City Councilman Dennis Flores, D-2nd Ward, if the site wasn’t taken down.
Giardini said he believes it’s no coincidence that the site came down after he sent the letter, in which he said he has proof that Early, Caruloff and Flores were behind it.
“The purpose of this letter is to demand that you take the website down and publicly apologize for the false and misleading statements you have made about members of this community,” Giardini wrote in the Aug. 16 letter.
The site had specialized in gossip about those holding positions of power in Lorain County politics, particularly in Lorain. The anonymous site always began its postings with “Rumor has it…”
Early did not return calls seeking comment Monday, but both Flores and Caruloff denied they had anything to do with running the site.
Caruloff said she doesn’t know who runs the site, which she acknowledged reading. She said she once sent a tip about her allegations that former Lorain Service Director
Robert Gilchrist was voting in the wrong location, but that was more of an effort to figure out who was operating LorainDirt.com than anything else.
Gilchrist is facing felony charges.
“I cannot say it’s Joyce Early. I cannot say it’s Dennis Flores,” she said. “All I can say is I’ve never been the administrator of any blog.”
Flores said he never contributed to the site and doesn’t know who operated it.
“I don’t have any firsthand knowledge as to who the website is registered to,” he said.
But Giardini said Andrew Branham, the son of former Lorain Schools Superintendent Ed Branham, conducted an investigation and was able to link LorainDirt.com with Early’s campaign website. Early has unsuccessfully run for the Lorain school board and Lorain City Council in the past.
Giardini, the chairman of the Lorain County Democratic Party, and the younger Branham, an outspoken conservative, have sparred publicly over their divergent political views. But Giardini said having differing political views isn’t the same thing as the personal animosity he believes fueled those responsible for LorainDirt.com.
“They’re just mean-spirited people,” he said.
Giardini, whose name often surfaced on the site, said he wasn’t complaining about the things that were said about him. He said as a public figure he’s used to such attacks, but the site often made untrue claims about private citizens, some of whom he now represents.
“When they began impugning people’s reputations and undermining the credibility of people, then they have stepped over the line into defamation, and they need to pay for it,” he said.
Taking down the website is a start, but Giardini said he still wants Early, Flores and Caruloff to apologize or he’ll go forward with the lawsuit.
Caruloff said she won’t be doing that.
“There is no apology because I have nothing to apologize for,” she said. “It wasn’t me.”
Giardini has a contentious history with the people he says run the site. He has been the frequent target of letters to editor written by Caruloff and has responded to them at times.
He has publicly clashed with Flores over the councilman’s support of Republican candidates and tried to have Flores removed from his post as a precinct committeeman because of it.
Caruloff said Giardini was trying to bully her and the others, and she planned to hit back with a complaint against him for making a false accusation against her.
Flores said he thinks the effort to shut down LorainDirt.com is linked to what he believes is an ongoing investigation to find the source of a leak in the Lorain Police Department.
LorainDirt.com was one of several media outlets to report last week that Lorain police Officers Jeff Jackson and Ralph Gonzalez are the subject of internal police investigations.
Giardini represents Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera in his legal fight with former Lorain police officer and convicted sex offender Joseph Montelon, who is accused of writing a string of anti-police letters that ended following a raid on his Wickliffe home four years ago. Montelon has never been charged with a crime, although he and Rivera have sued each other in federal court.
“I think it’s somehow related because he’s doing what a good lawyer does, he’s protecting his client,” Flores said.
Although Rivera did not return a call, Giardini and Lorain Safety Service Director Robert Fowler said they are unaware of a leak investigation.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.