LITTLE ROCK - Jim Harris, chief of staff in the state treasurer’s office, took steps to ensure an email containing negative comments about a former employee of the office would be seen by a television news reporter, the reporter testified Monday in federal court.
Monday was the opening day of a trial in a civil filed against Harris and state Treasurer Dennis Milligan by David Singer, former outreach manager for the treasurer’s office. Milligan fired Singer on April 27, 2015, and about a month later, Singer filed a lawsuit alleging that Harris had defamed him. The suit also alleges that Milligan discriminated against Singer based on a perceived disability.
Marine Glisovic, a reporter with KATV in Little Rock, testified Monday that the station reported on Singer’s firing and that the coverage included an in-studio interview with Singer within days of the firing.
Glisovic also said Harris went to KATV’s newsroom with emails and said, “If you want the story, this is the real story.” She said Harris encouraged the station to make a request under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act for the emails, which it did.
According to Singer’s suit, those emails included one from April 9, 2015, in which Harris said he suspected Singer had mental problems. The suit alleges the email is defamatory.
Glisovic testified that the email was included in a news report that aired on KATV and was published on the station’s website.
Byron Freeland, attorney for Harris, asked Glisovic if the station had obtained documents in an earlier FOI request that included the April 9 email. Glisovic said the station obtained a box full of documents and said she did not go through them all.
Freeland asked Glisovic why she would make an FOI request for documents and then not look at all the documents.
“I didn’t have enough time,” she said.
After court adjourned for the day, Freeland said in an interview the evidence would show KATV had the April 9 email before Harris visited the station.
“It was released legitimately pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request,” he said, adding that Harris’ visit to the KATV newsroom was “totally proper.”
“We feel good about our case,” he said.
Lucien Gillham, an attorney for Singer, declined to comment.
Documents obtained by the Arkansas News Bureau in the course of its reporting are among the documents from several news outlets that have been subpoenaed as evidence in the trial.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report incorrectly described the suit's allegation against Milligan.