Feb 23, 2023 - News

Cleveland city council aide named in Kucinich defamation suit

A campaign yard sign for Dennis Kucinich, with Dennis! in black letters on a yellow background

A Dennis! sign at Kucinich's 2021 primary election night watch party. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

Steven Rys, a special assistant to Cleveland City Council, has been named as a defendant in a defamation lawsuit filed by former mayor and congressman Dennis Kucinich.

Driving the news: Kucinich filed an amended complaint in the Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas on Friday alleging that Rys and unnamed co-conspirators developed and created a defamatory website during the 2021 mayoral campaign.

Why it matters: Rys was the longtime aide of former Cleveland City Council president Kevin Kelley and was retained by current council president Blaine Griffin.

  • Initially named as a John Doe in the suit, Rys asked the court if he could proceed under a pseudonym, but judge Jennifer O'Donnell denied that request.

Catch up quick: The anonymous website asserted Kucinich's campaign paid a sex offender to collect information on residents and gather signatures.

Context: The website appeared as other creative attack ads were circulating, created by Kelley-aligned PACs that viewed Kucinich as the major foe in the primary.

Of note: Kucinich noted in the lawsuit that his campaign hired a third-party vendor to circulate petitions, and that it was the vendor who hired and paid the circulator, not Kucinich himself.

The other side: Rys' attorney, Eric Long, told Axios that "the buck stops with" Kucinich, and that whether he liked it or not, he was responsible for the people going door to door in Cleveland neighborhoods for his campaign.


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