Attorney/PHM Board Pres. ignores conflict of interest, picks up client being sued by PHM Board candidate for defamation

Chris Riley and Matt Chaffee
From left to right: PHM Board President Chris Riley, PHM Board Candidate Matt Chaffee

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. — REAL News Michiana has learned the President of the Penn Harris Madison Board of School Trustees, Chris Riley (who is also an attorney), has decided to take on a client who is being sued by another PHM board candidate, Matt Chaffee. Chaffee is suing a woman named Bethany Matson for defamation regarding several libelous social media posts that date back to May of 2021 and continued through September of this year. While Chaffee is not running directly against Riley in the board race, he has been an outspoken critic of Riley’s leadership on the board and has aligned himself with Riley’s opponent, Bryan Jones.

“I believe the situation speaks for itself.” Chaffee told RNM. “My focus is on winning the election on November 8th. It has always been and continues to be my mission to give back to a community that has given me and my family so much.”

“Defendant falsely, maliciously, illegally, recklessly, and with total disregard for the truth
made comments and statements which Defendant published on social media platforms on
at least 3 separate occasions.” The lawsuit, which was filed late last month, states in part.

The defamatory statements included comments about Chaffee and his family. Due to that, RNM will not be releasing or republishing those comments, as the false statements could cause further harm.

Subscribers can read the entire lawsuit below.

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It turns out, Chaffee had sent the defendant a Cease and Desist letter regarding the defamatory statements in May of 2021. When the defamatory behavior continued, he finally filed a lawsuit. Subscribers can view the Cease and Desist letter below.

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Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Riley, who works for Sopko, Nussbaum, Inabnit, Kaczmarek, is listed as one of three attorneys retained by Matson.


This isn’t the first time Riley has used the justice and legal system against one of his opponents. In April, Riley had another board candidate, Andy Rutten, arrested at a school board meeting after he peacefully requested more time to address the board about its finances and a potential tax hike for residents.

Rutten, who is also a PHM parent, was not running for the board at the time. However, it was widely believed that he would be throwing his hat into the ring.

At the meeting in April, Rutten was addressing the board with information he had gathered and was attempting to show numbers and statistics to members. During his presentation, a board member or administrator had taken up much of the Rutten’s allotted 3 minutes to reply to one aspect of the concerns. Immediately after, the Rutten requested more time. President Riley refused to give the parent the time he deserved and instead directed a Deputy to arrest him.

PHM subsequently filed a no-trespass order against Rutten. Criminal charges were never filed and the trespass order was subsequently lifted.

It appears the arrest was simply retaliation for Rutten exposing the district for crimes it had committed. A month prior to the arrest, the State of Indiana came down with a ruling showing PHM had broken several public records/meetings laws. The ruling from the state stemmed from a complaint filed by Rutten.

“I am concerned at the direction Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp. seems to be heading.” Rutten told REAL News Michiana. “They tolerate political topics in the classroom like CRT and can be secretive with important education decisions. With declining test scores, many students are falling short of their potential while parental concerns are pushed aside. As a board member at PHM, I commit to ensuring our schools get back to the basics of excellent education, respect for parental rights and transparency to the taxpaying community.”


The State of Indiana released a scathing report in March, condemning the Penn Harris Madison School Corporation for blatantly breaking public records laws after an investigation by Indiana’s Public Access Counselor (PAC).

In a 9 page report by the PAC, the state lays out the complaint, Indiana’s laws and the violations committed by PHM Schools.

In January, Rutten submitted a public records request for information regarding PHM’s Superintendent Advisory Council (SAC). PHM claimed the SAC was exempt from Indiana’s Open Door Law — which requires meetings of certain public bodies be open to the public. PHM erroneously stated that since members of the SAC are appointed by the Superintendent and not an elected body, the meetings did not need to be open to the public.

The SAC has been responsible for pushing Critical Race Theory tenets into PHM schools through Diversity Equity and Inclusion initiatives. All of their meetings had been held in secret due to PHM’s violations.

According to PHM’s Website, “The objective of the SAC Steering Committee this year will be to serve in an advisory role regarding the implementation of the district’s DEI goals proposed by the SAC last year. P-H-M values and celebrates diversity and seeks to work on eliminating racial injustices and discrimination within the school district.”

The SAC consists of “members of P-H-M’s administration, teachers, staff, parents/guardians, students, as well as the greater community,” according to the website.

In the conclusion of his report, the Public Access Counselor wrote, “it is the opinion of this office that the Superintendent’s Advisory Council for Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation is subject to the Open Door Law.”

To learn more about Rutten and to support his campaign, visit

To learn more about Chaffee and to support his campaign, visit

To learn more about Bryan Jones and to support his campaign, visit

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  1. Praying that PHM voters will do the right thing on election day. I am also hoping that Matt will file a motion to have the court dismiss Riley as defendant’s attorney for conflict of interest.


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