U.S. Congressman-elect Doug LaMalfa’s former chief of staff issued a formal apology for creating a website that contained misinformation about Penn Valley resident Sam Aanestad, who ran against LaMalfa unsuccessfully during the primary.
Around April 18, a website with the address Sam4Congress.com was created.
The website called into question Aanestad’s credentials as an oral surgeon and made “false and defamatory” statements about his character, according to a defamation lawsuit filed May 8 in Nevada County Superior Court by Barry Pruett, Aanestad’s attorney.
The website was attributed to Michael D’Acquisto, another candidate in the Republican primary race, which LaMalfa eventually won.
However, a legal injunction was filed and the Internet Protocol address was identified as belonging Mark Spannagel, LaMalfa’s chief of staff.
Initially, LaMalfa denied knowledge of the website’s creation, then dismissed it as a joke in poor taste that was done without his personal consent or knowledge in an interview with The Union in October.
On Thursday, Spannagel issued a formal apology to Aanestad, who in turn dropped his defamation suit, according to Mark Standriff, former spokesman for Aanestad’s campaign.
“I, Mark Spannagel, offer this public apology to Dr. Samuel Aanestad for publishing an Internet website that was factually incorrect regarding Dr. Aanestad’s qualifications as a doctor and a surgeon,” Spannagel wrote in a prepared statement.
“I also apologize to the voting public in making accessible to them factually incorrect information regarding Dr. Aanestad’s personal and professional character.”
Spannagel went on to say he created the website independently while he was a paid staff member of LaMalfa’s campaign and a chief of staff in the California State Senate.
“This apology means that the defamation suit has been dropped, as well as the Federal Elections Commission Complaint investigation request,” Standriff said. “Aanestad is satisfied with the outcome and has no other comment.”
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