School board candidate sues incumbent over comments


The Patriot

An October 25 hearing date has been set in a civil suit filed August 22 by Pulaski County School Board candidate Gina Paine against her opponent, incumbent candidate Penny Golden.

Paine is challenging Golden for the Ingles District seat on the school board in the November General Election.

In her suit, Paine alleges that Golden made false and defamatory statements about her in a message sent via Facebook.

Gina Paine Candidate
Gina Paine

Paine is seeking judgement in the amount of $12,500 in compensatory damages and $12,500 in punitive damages.

The suit alleges that on or about August 8, Golden sent a message via Facebook to Mickey Weikle stating that, among other things, “Ms. Paine is a convicted felon with an extensive criminal history.”

Included with the suit are two exhibits.

Exhibit One is a screen shot of the message sent by Golden to Weikle.

In the screen shot, Golden states she “received a call earlier about the Republican meeting this Thursday night concerning the agenda item ‘the endorsement of school board candidates,’ and wanted to reach out to you (Weikle) to provide some information.”

Golden continues that, “Myself, members of the board of supervisors and local papers all received a copy of the criminal history for Gina Paine and I have a feeling that the Republican Party doesn’t know about it.”

Golden then makes her assertion that “Ms. Paine is a convicted felon with an extensive criminal history.”

Penny Golden Candidate
Penny Golden

Golden closes the Facebook message to Weikle by saying, “Although it was several years ago, I still think it is relevant to character and before you vote to endorse her you should have all of the information.”

In the same screenshot, Weikle says, “Penny, due to my physical and visual handicap I no longer have a leadership role in the Republican party. I would suggest if you have concerns about any candidate …,” with the rest of her comment cut off in the screen shot.

The suit maintains Paine has never been charged with a felony and therefore is not and cannot be a convicted felon.

The suit states, “Therefore, this portion of the statement is false.”

The suit continues that considering Paine “has only had a single misdemeanor conviction in approximately 2002 and no other criminal record, therefore she does not have an extensive criminal history.  Therefore, this portion of the statement is also false.”

The suit says Golden’s “false statements are defamatory per se as they impute the commission of a crime that is punishable by imprisonment in a State or Federal institution.”

The suit notes that Golden is currently running in an election against Paine and others and is “using these defamatory statements to promote her own campaign.”

The suit maintains Golden’s statement was made “intentionally without any regard to the truth,” and the statements by Golden “are false and were made with a malicious intent to attempt to influence the upcoming election and promote her own campaign.”

The suit says Golden “claims to have obtained a criminal history of the Plaintiff (Paine), yet the Department of Justice report (shown in Exhibit Two) contains no reportable conviction.”

“Because of the defamatory nature of the false statements made on or about Aug. 8, 2023, Paine is entitled to both compensatory and punitive damages pursuant to Virginia Code Section 8.01-45.”

The suit claims that because of the defamatory statements by Golden, Paine’s reputation and standing in the community has been damaged.

It also claims that Golden “intended these false statements to be humiliating and embarrassing in addition to causing Paine mental suffering.”

“As a result of these false statements, Paine has suffered embarrassment, humiliations and mental suffering, and has had to refute these false statements.”

Paine is being represented in her suit by Blacksburg attorney Christopher Tuck.

The Patriot reached out to Golden for comment but had not heard back from her as of press time Thursday.

Editor’s note: The Patriot did not receive a copy Gina Paine’s criminal history, as suggested by Golden in her message to Weikle.