Monday, August 8, 2016

Jury trial set to begin today in defamation case against treasurer's office chief of staff

Posted By on Mon, Aug 8, 2016 at 8:55 AM

click to enlarge HAPPIER TIMES: Milligan (left) and Singer.
  • HAPPIER TIMES: Milligan (left) and Singer.
The jury trial will commence today in federal court in the defamation lawsuit brought by David Singer, a former Arkansas treasurer's office staffer, against Jim Harris, chief of staff for Treasurer Dennis Milligan. Milligan himself was added to the suit for refusing a name-clearing hearing for Singer. The case moved to the U.S. District Court in Little Rock when an Americans with Disabilities Act claim and other federal complaints were added. 

Singer was fired without public explanation as outreach manager in April of 2015. The lawsuit, originally filed in Circuit Court the following May, alleges that Harris made "slanderous and defamatory remarks," including spreading false statements about Singer's mental health to Milligan, co-workers, and the press. Singer also alleges that Harris had made derogatory remarks "in a disgusting manner" related to Singer's wife, who had died of cancer. Here are some FOI'd examples of the bad vibes between Singer and Harris.

Singer's attorney, Luther Sutter, previously won a $30,000 settlement in a suit against Milligan on behalf of an employee Milligan fired while Saline County circuit clerk.

During a deposition in the Singer case, Milligan and Sutter got in a shoving match. Sutter says he acted in self defense after Milligan attacked him and is suing him in civil court. Milligan, for his part, said that the shoving match caused him to have chest pains. The next day he wore a sling on his arm and did not show up to a meeting because he said he was homebound recovering from the altercation.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Brian S. Miller granted certain motions from Byron Freeland, the attorney for Milligan and Harris. Attorneys for Singer will not be allowed to mention a separate whistle blower claim, complaints filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission, and evidence regarding alleged sexual harassment. Attorneys for Singer will also be barred from comparing Milligan's integrity to that of disgraced former Treasurer Martha Schoffner, who was convicted of accepting a bribe in a pie box. 

However, a motion to bar Singer's attorneys from referring to an email which included the alleged defamation as "disgusting" was denied. 

Milligan's career in public life has brought a parade of unflattering headlines that bring to mind the Jerry Springer show — he  illegally hired a cousin, tried to extort a political opponent at a Krispy Kreme, engaged in questionable campaign finance practices, and said we needed another September 11. And much more, those are just the ones that pop in to my head offhand. 

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