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2 COUNSELORS SUE AGENCY OVER OFFICIAL'S ALLEGATIONS

Two Utah County counselors have brought a defamation suit against a state Division of Family Services official they say maliciously raised doubts about their qualifications.

Gale and Robert Stringham filed the 3rd District Court suit Monday against Le Roy Franke, state domestic-violence specialist.The couple allege he has interfered with their business relationships by spreading false information about them.

Franke was out of town Tuesday and unavailable for comment. The lawsuit does not name DFS as a defendant.

Gale Stringham is a licensed psychologist with Associated Psychological Consultants in Orem. Robert W. Stringham is a certified addictions counselor. He faces a February 1995 trial on 16 counts of racketeering and communications fraud. The charges allege he overbilled a former employer, Assessments and Psychotherapy Associates, for $11,000 between 1990 and 1992.

He says the charges are politically motivated.

Stringham is a former Utah County Democratic Party chairman and unsuccessful candidate in the 3rd Congressional District.

The suit says Franke asked Stringham for information about another provider of domestic-violence treatment and shared Stringham's comments with the provider, who now refuses to pay Gale Stringham $36,000 he owes her.

The suit says Franke told people that Stringham was not licensed to provide alcohol treatment. Individual alcohol counselors are not required to be licensed in Utah, the suit said.

It contends Franke blocked a federal grant to Sandy Justice Court for a counseling program involving the Stringhams by telling federal officials that Stringham was facing criminal charges and that many complaints had been filed about the Stringhams' services.

The Stringhams ask for unspecified financial and punitive damages, attorney's fees and an order prohibiting Franke from making further statements about them.