- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas’ attorney general asked a federal judge Wednesday to issue a protective order to prevent her from being made to testify in a defamation lawsuit filed against the state treasurer.

The lawsuit against Treasurer Dennis Milligan and his chief of staff, Jim Harris, centers on the contents of an April email Harris wrote, saying that former outreach manager David Singer’s mental state was unstable prior to his firing. In Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s request for protection from deposition, lawyers for her office say Rutledge never saw or approved the email’s release and that her testimony would not be relevant to the claims in the lawsuit.

Luther Sutter, an attorney for Singer who filed the lawsuit earlier this year, sent an email to the attorney general’s office saying he wanted to depose Rutledge over her input into the release of Singer’s personnel documents and emails regarding his termination. Deputy Attorney General David Curran responded, notifying Sutter that Rutledge had not seen the email mentioned in several lawsuit filings.

The emails were attached as exhibits to Wednesday’s filing regarding deposition protection.

Sutter did not immediately return a phone call for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The attorney general’s office asked to be removed as counsel representing Milligan and Harris because of a potential conflict of interest.

Byron Freeland, a private attorney now representing the two, said the filing says Rutledge hadn’t seen the email. Freeland said treasurer’s office staff sought advice from an assistant attorney general before releasing the email in question.

“It was a telephone conversation with three people in the treasurer’s office,” he said. “To my knowledge, there was never a formal opinion issued on the matter. But (the treasurer’s office) sought advice from the attorney general’s office.”

Singer alleges in the lawsuit that Harris made defamatory remarks about his mental health and other topics, including Singer’s behavior toward female employees, in an email to another staff member. Singer alleges that the remarks damaged his reputation when the email from Harris was released to news reporters under a Freedom of Information Act request.

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