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Judge Fines Ky. Newspaper Employees

June 27, 2002

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INEZ, Ky. (AP) _ The top three officials of a Kentucky newspaper have been fined $1,500 for defying a judge’s publishing ban while they challenged a public official who legally acquired the paper’s name.

Mountain Citizen owner Lisa Stayton, publisher Roger Smith and editor Gary Ball were each fined $500 by Judge Daniel Sparks, who said he was forced to act to protect the integrity of the judiciary.

``To condone the actions of the defendants would be tantamount to promoting and fostering the disrespect and distrust of the judicial system,″ Sparks said in this week’s ruling. The three had been cited for contempt of court.

The judge had ordered the newspaper to stop using its name after John R. Triplett, former chairman of the Martin County Water Board, took the Mountain Citizen name when the paper inadvertently let its incorporation papers lapse.

Smith argued that Triplett wanted to silence the newspaper’s coverage of the water plant, though Triplett has declined to say why he wanted the newspaper’s name or what he planned to do with it.

The paper had published several stories about problems with the county’s water treatment plant and its distribution lines. Photographs in the paper have shown muddy water coming out of faucets and sand collecting in sinks.

Kentucky corporations are required to submit annual reports to the state. Those that do not are presumed inactive and are dissolved. The Mountain Citizen had not filed a report in two years, making its name fair game.

Stayton said she was preoccupied with taking care of her ailing brother.

Attorney David Fleenor said he did not know what his clients would do about the fines.

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