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State treasurer's chief of staff announces retirement weeks before retrial in defamation case

by Emma Pettit | December 12, 2016 at 2:02 p.m.

The chief of staff for the Arkansas treasurer announced his retirement Monday less than a month before he is due back in court in a defamation case brought by a former employee of the office.

In a statement, Treasurer Dennis Milligan thanked Jim Harris for the work and time he put in since becoming chief of staff when Milligan took office in January 2015.

Harris cited his health as the reason for his departure.

Both Harris and Milligan will face a federal jury early next year for the retrial of a defamation lawsuit brought by a former treasurer's office outreach manager, David Singer, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette previously reported.

Singer claims in the lawsuit that Harris defamed him by writing an interoffice memo to the deputy chief of staff saying he had "mental problems." Singer says that memo led to him being fired by Milligan and says the Treasurer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits terminating someone for a real or perceived disability, the paper reported.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Miller declared a mistrial in the case in August because Harris was removed from the courtroom by paramedics after he fell ill.

Singer's attorney argued jurors who knew Harris was carted out on a gurney might be overly sympathetic to him, the paper reported. Harris' ailment has not been publicly revealed.

A federal jury is set to convene Jan. 9 for a retrial.

Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

Reporter John Moritz contributed to this story.


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