Social media spat leads to suit
by Ron Gregory
Huntington — A war of words on social media has led to the filing of a defamation lawsuit in Cabell County Circuit Court.
Connie and Paul Miller, along with Grace Communities Outreach Ministries, Inc., doing business as Grace Food Pantry, Connie’s Kids Club, a non-profit have sued Kris Allfrey and Norm Miller, according to records on file in the circuit clerk’s office. The paperwork was filed July 20 and assigned civil case number 20-C-225.
Allfrey is being sued individually and in his capacity as administrator of the Facebook page, “Real Huntington.” Miller is also being sued individually as an administrator of the Facebook page, “Huntington City Watch.”
Those involved are all residents of Cabell County except Allfrey, who lives in Lawrence County, Ohio, according to the suit. Norm Miller is said not to be related to the plaintiff Millers.
The suit’s narrative says Connie and Paul Miller started the non-profit, Grace Food Pantry, in 2013. “Its mission … was to outreach to the community to assist and feed people in need,” the suit says.
A child feeding program, Connie’s Kids Club, quickly evolved as a part of the group’s programs.
The pantry began operating out of a facility owned by Guyandotte United Methodist Church in the Guyandotte section of Huntington. Programs were expanded over the years, the suit maintains.
As programs expanded and grants sought, the name was changed to Grace Community Outreach Ministries d/b/a Grace Food Pantry and Connie’s Kid’s Club. Currently, the suit alleges, the program feeds 147 children per week. In April, the program fed about 3,000 people in need.
In January 2018, Norm Miller posted on Facebook looking for a place for his organization, Huntington City Watch, to meet. He described his group as “a neighborhood watch and community involvement group.”
Connie Miller responded to Norm Miller by offering a meeting space at the Guyandotte UM Church, the suit says.
Huntington City Watch and defendant Miller subsequently met at the church for three or four months before moving outside to Ritter Park and other outdoor locations.
A few weeks after moving outside, the complaint says, Norm Miller asked Connie Miller if his group could do a food drive for her organization. Later, he told the plaintiff that he was going to auction a police scanner and give proceeds to her organization.
While Connie Miller is described in the suit as “thankful” for Norm Miller’s offers, the narrative maintains her group “never received a single dollar or donation” from Norm Miller or any part of his organization.
Connie Miller later learned, the suit says, that Norm Miller established a Go Fund Me account for her pantry but the pantry received no funding from it either.
At one point, the suit says, Norm Miller told Connie Miller that he had raised as much as $1,000 for her group. To date, as noted earlier, Connie Miller says the pantry has received nothing.
In email communication, Norm Miller allegedly kept Connie Miller abreast of fund-raising, at one time telling her that a state legislator had donated $100.
Eventually, members of the community began asking how much money her group had received from Norm Miller. When she responded “nothing,” many began to question him.
Connie Miller then made “one post” on Facebook, simply explaining that her pantry had gotten nothing from Norm Miller or his organization. She did not identify Norm Miller by name in the post.
According to the suit, during this interval Kris Allfrey started the Facebook page, “Real Huntington.” The suit refers to a complaint against the pantry apparently filed by Allfrey and then “reported” on the Real Huntington page.
Real Huntington claimed that an investigation was ongoing against the pantry and Connie Miller “claiming she committed fraud, that she was on drugs, that she committed tax evasion.”
At about the same time, Norm Miller did a podcast accusing Connie Miller of similar things. The suit maintains that both Norm Miller and Kris Allfrey’s allegations about Connie Miller are “provably false.”
The allegations have hampered the pantry’s operation and caused Connie Miller undue emotional distress, the suit maintains.
The suit lists four causes of action. First, it alleges defamation and slander; second, tortious interference of a business; third, invasion of privacy; and fourth, intentional infliction of emotional distress.
According to courthouse sources, the suit has been served. Defendants normally have 20 days to respond.