- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A former employee fired from the Arkansas treasurer’s office filed a lawsuit Thursday against the treasurer’s chief of staff, accusing him of defamation.

David Singer, who was fired from his position as outreach manager for the treasurer’s office in late April, filed the lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court. The lawsuit was filed against Chief of Staff Jim Harris, as an individual not as a state employee.

Grant Wallace, a spokesman for the treasurer’s office, said Harris would not be speaking about the lawsuit. Wallace issued a statement on behalf of the treasurer’s office.

“The allegations made by Mr. Singer are untrue,” Wallace wrote. “The actions taken by Jim Harris were done so in his official capacity as chief of staff. This matter has been referred to the attorney general’s office.”

The lawsuit alleges that Harris published false statements about Singer’s mental health to co-workers, Treasurer Dennis Milligan and to members of the media.

Wallace said that the office released information to the media that it was obligated to under the Freedom of Information Act. That release included at least one email from Jim Harris sent from his government email address to another employee discussing Singer’s mental health.

The lawsuit also alleges that Harris talked about Singer’s wife, who died of breast cancer in June 2014, in a “disgusting manner.” It alleges that Harris published statements to members of the media earlier this month that accused Singer of acting inappropriately with female employees.

In the lawsuit, Singer accuses Harris of giving those statements to “deflect attention from his own inappropriate behavior.”

Wallace said “no such complaints” had been filed against Harris in the time he’s worked at the treasurer’s office.

Attorney Luther Sutter, who is representing Singer in the lawsuit, said he was “shocked” at the statement released by the treasurer’s office Thursday.

“This has been escalated from a dispute between private individuals to a dispute between David Singer and the great State of Arkansas,” he said. “Dennis Milligan has elected to make this a public matter, showing once again that he has placed his private interest ahead of the public interest, something he swore not to do in his campaign. Mr. Singer is paying his own private attorney, why can’t Mr. Harris pay his own attorney as well?”

No response to the lawsuit had been filed as of late Thursday, according to online court records.

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