In this Oct. 21, 2020, file photo, pedestrians wear masks while walking along Main Street in Belfast. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

A mother and daughter who live in Belfast have filed a defamation lawsuit against eight people ― including two city councilors ― who they say accused the women of running a brothel and hosting sex parties.

The lawsuit was filed in Waldo County Superior Court on May 10 on behalf of April Walker and her mother, R. M. Woodford. The women, who live in the historic James P. White House, accuse the group of publicly spreading false statements about them shortly after Walker and Woodford expressed their opposition to a proposal for a former school to be converted into rental properties more than two years ago.

Individuals named as defendants in the lawsuit say the allegations are false. In fact, they say that the apparent Facebook comments included as evidence in the lawsuit have been fabricated.

“[It’s] beyond false allegations, they have fabricated evidence which is much, much worse than a false allegation,” Belfast City Councilor Mike Hurley said. “Not one thing any of the people are alleged to have said, were said. There isn’t one comment in the evidence that was real.”

The lawsuit names Hurley, Belfast City Councilor Neal Harkness and his wife Cheryl Fuller, Mandy Marriner-Everett, Anne Saggese, Joshua Ard, Erik Klausmeyer and Allison Ames Goscinski as defendants.

After the Pierce School proposal failed, the lawsuit claims that the defendants began “harassing” the women and accusing them of undermining the process for the project.

The defendants allegedly then began making public statements regarding Walker and Woodford running a brothel at their home on Church Street and hosting sex parties there. One Facebook comment included in the lawsuit insinuated that Jeffrey Epstein had visited the house.

On one instance, Neal Harkness allegedly accused Walker and Woodford of hosting “Hollywood prostitutes” and referred to their home as a whorehouse, according to the lawsuit. Harkness, reached on Monday afternoon, said the allegations against him are also false.

“They’re complete fabrications,” Harkness said.

The lawsuit claims that the “defamatory content” allegedly expressed by defendants were posted “on a platform” where Hurley serves as a “host.” Hurley is the administrator for the public Facebook group called “You Know You Love Belfast If….”.

Instead of blocking the individuals who were making the defamatory statements against Walker and Woodford, the lawsuit alleges that Hurley joined in.

“People like the Walkers ruin Belfast. That woman walks her dog and ignores everyone with her nose high in the air and if they don’t like it here go back to New York and take the brothel with them,” according to a copy of what appears to be a Facebook comment made by Mike Hurley that is included in the lawsuit.

Hurley denies that he ever made that Facebook comment.

“I was shocked that a lawsuit would be filed based on complete fabrication of all evidence,” he said.

A search of the “You Know You Love Belfast If…” page for posts related to the claims made in the lawsuit did not turn up any matching comments.

David Walker, the attorney representing Walker and Woodford, said Monday that if the defendants “are claiming that they didn’t post the defamatory statements then we will get to the bottom of it through the legal process.”

Walker said he will present evidence during the legal process to show that the defendants did make the comments.

“Deleting content after the fact does not blunt the impact that these injurious, inflammatory statements make on any number of innocent parties,” Walker said.

Through the lawsuit, Walker and Woodford are seeking an unspecified amount of damages on counts of defamation, painting someone in a false light and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.