Lawyers in Boston and Texas representing Danielle Pendergraft and her husband, Scott Pendergraft, of Edgartown and her Houston company, Holiday Public Relations & Events, responded this week to an extensive news story, published in The Times online May 30 and in print on May 31, that described business and legal disputes involving Ms. Pendergraft and the Holiday firm
The story included reporting on a lawsuit filed by Holiday against SQuire Rushnell and Louise DuArt of Edgartown, founders of the nonprofit Network of Neighbors. It also described a small claims case that Kathleen Forsythe, owner of Forsythe Design in Tisbury, filed May 30 in Dukes County District Court against Ms. Pendergraft, seeking $7,000 in payment for work on the Network of Neighbors website. In that matter, the court found in favor of Ms. Forsythe this week.
Along with descriptions of the legal and personal clashes Ms. Pendergraft has had with Edgartown charities, The Times article also described her previously undisclosed federal prison sentence for bank fraud, wire fraud, and social security fraud.
In an email to The Times last week, Texas attorney J. David Kuntz stressed that it is not Ms. Pendergraft as an individual but her public relations firm that filed lawsuits against the nonprofit Edgartown Library Foundation and Mr. Rushnell and Ms. DuArt, former board members of Network of Neighbors.
In district court last week, Boston lawyer Kristen Schuler Scammon, representing Ms. Pendergraft in the small claims matter, made a similar distinction between Ms. Pendergraft and Holiday. Ms. Scammon argued that Holiday is liable and not her client, whom she described as an employee of Holiday.
Court finds for claimant
On Wednesday, June 6, district court clerk/magistrate Liza Williamson ruled in favor of Ms. Forsythe’s claim.
The Times had sought, on May 28, in phone calls left at each of the three numbers listed as offices of Holiday and by email, to interview Ms. Pendergraft. On Wednesday, May 30, Mr. Kuntz responded by email to the interview request, rejecting it.
In his email, Mr. Kuntz wrote that Ms. Pendergraft was concerned that, “your newspaper may incorrectly convey to your readers a false impression, if not false facts.”
Mr. Kuntz said Holiday sued after an offer to settle a dispute it had with Mr. Rushnell and Ms. DuArt, at a deep discount, was rebuffed.
“Any claims of wrongdoing against the Pendergrafts are false and will be forcefully rebutted, and anyone who libels, slanders or otherwise portrays them in a false light in connection with this lawsuit or any other matters will be dealt with as the situation dictates to the full extent of the law,” Mr. Kuntz wrote.
“Holiday Public Relations & Events, LLC is the plaintiff in both instances, Danielle Pendergraft is the plaintiff in neither,” wrote Mr. Kuntz. “Ms. Pendergraft is an employee of Holiday, but is not Holiday, and is not a member or owner of Holiday.”
The Times also asked Ms. Scammon, who represents Mr. and Mrs. Pendergraft, to arrange an interview with the Pendergrafts, but Ms. Scammon replied, in a June 5 email, “My clients are not interested in an interview. They simply do not trust your paper and do not want their children to endure the additional frenzy that would result from another article. ”
Into the online fray
In two lengthy posts, Mr. Kuntz also entered the online comment fray, an unusual step for someone in a profession where comments are carefully measured and most often delivered in more formal settings.
“Even though Massachusetts is a very small state, apparently the memo from Salem still hasn’t reached MV,” Mr. Kuntz wrote. “It’s no longer acceptable to simply call someone a witch then burn her at the stake then claim a proper trial was had…. Before any judgment is made, I urge all who find this relatively minor dispute to be a true clash between good and evil, which shows a distortion of reality and ego even the Twilight Zone would find bizarre, to at least view the depositions of Squire, Louise and perhaps even Tim Conway. Then you’ll see who worked, who agreed to pay for that work, and who didn’t pay.”
In a second, longer post. Mr. Kuntz added, “Unlike real con artists, however, who constantly move about, don’t hold down relationships or jobs, and keep racking up convictions and lawsuits against them, rather than prevailing in them against others, Danielle has never been convicted of a crime since, has been happily married and is successfully raising three children while running a business that made a very good product for the defendants.
“…Mercifully, however, Holiday’s suit against S & L is pending in Harris County, Texas, not in Duke’s County, Massachusetts. That is by agreement in the contract S & L signed.”
See related story, “Holiday/Pendergraft Edgartown tale echoes Houston past.”