- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A federal judge on Tuesday denied a request by a former Arkansas Treasurer’s office employee who sought a name-clearing hearing before his defamation lawsuit against Treasurer Dennis Milligan and Chief of Staff Jim Harris moves forward.

U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes denied the request for a preliminary injunction to grant the hearing made by former treasurer’s office outreach manager David Singer. Holmes ruled Singer had failed to make the request in a timely manner and said he had “significant doubts as to whether (Singer) can succeed on the merits.”

Singer’s attorney Luther Sutter said his client had the right to a public forum to address alleged damage to his reputation that occurred when an email from Harris to another treasurer’s office employee was released to reporters.

“This is like a wound until my client gets his day in court and a proper name-clearing hearing,” Sutter said. “The things these gentlemen said… it’s like an infection.”

Holmes said previous rulings showed that a name-clearing hearing would grant relief and could be considered a final order that makes the rest of the lawsuit moot.

After his ruling, Holmes agreed to try to expedite the case, but said he had doubts as to whether Singer’s defamation lawsuit should be heard in federal court. He said he wants to resolve an amended claim from Singer that he was fired because of a perceived disability, which would be a federal issue under Equal Employment Opportunity laws.

“I want to get some of these other issues resolved quickly so that you know whether the defamation case proceeds in federal or state court,” Holmes said.

An attorney for Harris and Milligan, Byron Freeland, filed the original motion to move the case to federal court.

The ruling “is very correct and what I expected. I don’t think he has a case. He can’t show irreparable harm… and I plan to file a motion for a summary judgment,” Freeland said.

Singer was fired from his position in late April, with the explanation that his services would no longer be needed.

He filed the lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court in May after Harris’ email was released. The email noted concerns about Singer’s mental health related to the death of his wife from cancer last year.

The lawsuit alleges that Harris published false statements about Singer’s mental health to co-workers and others, talked about Singer’s wife in a “disgusting manner” and made statements accusing Singer of acting inappropriately with female employees.

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