FREE SPEECH -- The Press-Enterprise in Riverside reports that a slander lawsuit
against Canyon Lake City Council members Nancy Horton and Barry Talbot,
filed by the investors in a proposed hillside development,
infringed on the officials' right to free speech, a Riverside County
Superior Court judge ruled last week in dismissing the action in response to an anti-SLAPP motion by the defendants.

Before joining the council, and at the time of making the allegedly defamatory statements, Horton and Talbot were members of Concerned Citizens of Canyon Lake, an organization that opposed the project.

    Three Canyon Lake businessmen comprise (plaintiff Sky Blue Investments): Dave Carlton, Vince Martin and Martin Gibson. Gibson also is a Canyon Lake councilman.
    Sky Blue said Horton and Talbot distributed a news release that said
that the Canyon Lake Property Owners' Association owned a portion of
the mineral rights on the hillside, which they said Horton and Talbot
knew was false.

    The contractor shied away from doing business with them until the mineral rights question was resolved.   
    The group has since scuttled the plans for a shopping center and their plans for homes are in limbo.
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    Citing a previous
case, Donner said Talbot and Horton's news release and subsequent
statements, true or false, occurred in the context of a public
discussion of the hillside project, and thus received constitutional
protection.