News and Tribune

August 31, 2013

Jeffersonville couple plans to countersue Hooters owner

Wife claims civil action defamatory, slanderous

By GARY POPP
gary.popp@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — The defendant in a civil suit filed Wednesday by Neal Harding, former Hooters franchisee and Jeffersonville resident, provided a statement explaining her position on the case.

In an email, Beth Thompson, wife of Jeffersonville Fire Department Assistant Chief Josh Thompson, who is also a defendant in the suit, said Harding’s stance is both slanderous and defamatory.

The suit’s complaint and Harding’s attorney, Larry Wilder, of Jeffersonville, claim the Thompsons swindled Harding out of $420,000 over a nearly four-month period.

The money was to be put toward three weight-loss facilities in Kentucky, and Harding claims he was told the business venture was more fiscally sound than what resulted, as none of the business survived six months. The Thompsons filed personal bankruptcy days after receiving the final payment from Harding.

The complaint also claims that the Thompsons have refused to share with Harding where the money he provided was spent.

Beth Thompson said the allegations are far from true.

“I have at all times dealt openly and honestly with Mr. Harding and his business partner, who are sophisticated businessmen. This includes providing them all financial statements, bank records, and receipts showing how every penny of their funds were applied to a start-up business as they directed,” Beth Thompson stated in the email. “I and my family did not benefit in any manner whatsoever from Mr. Harding’s investments and have also suffered great financial losses due to this business relationship.”

Her statement continued that Harding and his partner breached their end of the agreements, which caused the businesses to fail.

“Instead of communicating with us in a forthright manner and coming to a reasonable conclusion, Mr. Harding and his attorney, Mr. Wilder, have chosen to use the court and the media to help spread lies, defame my reputation and my husband’s reputation as a public servant, and support their bully pulpit,” the statement read.

According to the email, the Thompsons intend to file their own suit in response to the recently filed complaint in Clark County Circuit Court No. 4.

“My husband and I will [countersue] Mr. Harding for defamation and other damages caused by Mr. Harding and related parties,” according to the statement.