This story has been updated to include a comment from Richard Hines and to correct the date the lawsuit was filed (October 2018, not October this year).
Renaissance Covington has filed a lawsuit against the editor of the Northern Kentucky News Network, a series of Facebook pages that allegedly report news about the area. It uses pages with names like Northern Kentucky News, Covington News, Latonia News, Kenton County News, Boone County News, Florence KY News, Campbell County News, Newport KY News, Grant County Buzz, Northern Kentucky Life, and more.
The River City News is in no way affiliated with this network and operates as a Kentucky-based limited company with an office in downtown Covington.
The operator of the websites of the NKY news network, according to its website, is Richard Hines, a former Covington resident who now lives in Florida and Georgia. He also claims to own a house in Fort Thomas.
In the lawsuit, filed last October and scheduled for a hearing in Kenton Circuit Court on Monday morning, Renaissance Covington (RCOV), an advertising and civic organization based in the city center, alleges that Hines through a number of bodies are contributing him news network, defamed former managing director Katie Meyer.
Katie Meyer, who left the organization a year ago to take a job at Cincinnati Bell, is the daughter of Covington Mayor Joe Meyer.
Although Hines has long been an agitator and critic of RCOV, a number of posts about the organization’s finances inspired the lawsuit against him.
On September 22, 2018, Hines posted on several pages on his Facebook messaging network that Renaissance Covington was one of two Covington-based organizations that “can file for bankruptcy.” The other was the Mainstrasse Village Association, which filed for bankruptcy and closure.
RCOV, on the other hand, challenged Hines’ claim. In his post, Hines wrote, according to the lawsuit, that both organizations “were unable to advertise” and that RCOV “is out of money and considering its options.”
The next day, RCOV attorney Shannon Smith, who was running for the city commission at the time and is currently serving in her first two-year tenure as city commissioner, emailed Hines an injunction. The order asked Hines to remove all references to RCOV who are running out of money or wanting to file for bankruptcy. Smith’s letter also urged Hines to correct his contributions and apologize for them.
Smith’s letter warned Hines that RCOV could take legal action. It also informed Hines that the organization’s financial information was available to the public.
Part of Solicitor Shannon Smith’s cease and desist letter to NKY News Network Editor Richard Hines
On September 26, Hines returned to the RCOV financial release.
“Renaissance Covington refuses to release any information about its current financial status,” Hines wrote on his Facebook page. Charlene Dietz, a Covington resident listed as a contributor on Hines’ Facebook pages, picked up documents from RCOV. “As of September 22nd, when the article was posted on the NKY News Network, no verified financial statements will be published. He has provided us with a copy of his budget for fiscal year 2016-17 that tells us nothing. A spokesman claims the Die.” Organization is late with its 2018 report due to a change in accounting. “
On that date and in the same post, Hines wrote on his NKY News Network pages, “We don’t know whether the organization is broke or not. A list of cash on hand and liabilities would answer that question, but so far The nonprofit run by the City of Covington supported has refused to do so. “
Hines has long been critical of Renaissance Covington and members of the Meyer family.
His series of Facebook pages began with one named after the Covingon neighborhood where he lived near Mayor Meyer and his family, Old Seminary Square. That site later evolved into a site with a different name, and then a number of other sites followed, which were later merged by Hines as the NKY News Network and mainly summarize content from other media sources.
Hines is often criticized by users of his pages for deleting comments and banning people from the pages.
Recently, on November 17, he threatened to cease operations unless he received 1,000 comments over the network on a particular post. At the time of this writing, the post had 81 comments.
Renaissance Covington’s current executive director Nick Wade declined to comment on the story and referred to the ongoing legal matter.
Richard Hines made a statement to The River City News on Wednesday night. “The NKY News Network keeps a close eye on governments and publicly funded organizations. The media used to do that,” Hines said. “Renaissance Covington agreed in September 2018 to present updated annual financial statements, which were out of date and irrelevant.
“The organization is requesting a retraction of a posting with an opinion, and I have refused to look into this until NKY News Networks receives these September 2018 financial statements. This lawsuit has been going on for over a year.”
Hines said he plans to counter Renaissance Covington, Katie Meyer and all of the directors who served in 2018 and 2019.
He also made an exception in characterizing RCN that the NKY News Network primarily gathers news content from other media sources.
“NKY News Network composes its own stories and is posted on newsnky.com (but not for the last month since I was working on another project),” said Hines. “Not just social media. Please get your facts right.”
A request for comment from Shannon Smith’s law firms has not yet been returned.
The lawsuit seeks defamation, invasion of privacy and injunctive relief.
Statements of RCOV’s alleged impending bankruptcy, as published by Hines, “were made with malice, ruthlessness and negligence,” the lawsuit said. “The statements were made to damage, embarrass and attack the reputations of RCOV and Katie Meyer.
“RCOV and Katie Meyer have suffered damage from the releases.”
The lawsuits seek damages and punitive damages, and also demand that Hines not post references to RCOV.
The hearing on Monday is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. at Kenton Circuit Court in Covington.
The Kenton County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office was able to produce a copy of the complaint, but was unable to produce a copy of the requested filings on Wednesday, which were due to be examined on Monday.
Written by Michael Monks, editor and publisher