A Leavenworth photographer is seeking damages form the city of Lansing for comments made by members of the city council she feels were damaging to her business and an invasion of her privacy.
Debra Bates-Lamborn filed a tort May 6 that alleges comments made at meetings March 21 and April 4 were inappropriate.
At both of those meetings, members of the council made comments regarding official photographs of the council Bates-Lamborn took in her First City Photo and Frames studio in 2011. It started, she said, as Mayor Billy Blackwell asked council members about their availability for photos of the new council.
“That's when he should have stopped and not gone any further,” Bates-Lamborn said. “Instead, he said something about my photography and my business that he had no right to say.”
Bates-Lamborn said she was out of town and not present at the meeting, though someone directed her to a video of it later. She said Blackwell appears to call her 2011 photographs “gothic,” a comment that prompts comments from other council members. Bates-Lamborn claims a similar comment was made at an April meeting. She said it's the forum in which those statements were made that bothers her most.
“If Billy Blackwell wants to stand on the street corner at Fourth and Main and say it, that's fine, but you don't sit in a live, televised meeting with the name 'mayor' in front of you, and tear down a business,” she said.
Bates-Lamborn is seeking $75,000 in damages from the comments, according to the document filed this week, which names all of the members of the council and Blackwell. She said that's an estimate of what she would lose in business over five years.
City Administrator Mike Smith declined to provide details on the city's response to the tort.
“The only thing I can say is we have turned it over to our insurance carrier and our attorney,” he said.