Breaking: Diane Harkey claims emotional distress in lawsuit against Mark Wyland

Greg Larkin Greg Larkin 14 Comments

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Citing defamation and emotional distress, Orange County area Assemblywoman Diane Harkey recently filed a lawsuit against State Senator Mark Wyland for comments she claims he made during a July speech to a Tea Party group.

Harkey and her husband Dan have been embroiled in legal troubles involving Point Center Financial, facing allegations of defrauding investors and use of a Ponzi-type scheme.  A judge separated Diane Harkey from the ongoing case in June, so she is no longer a defendant, but in July there was a verdict and related penalties against Dan Harkey totaling several million dollars.

Assemblywoman Harkey apparently didn’t appreciate Wyland’s reference to the case when he spoke to the Tri-City Tea Party group in San Diego on July 16. Her lawsuit, filed August 26 in Orange County Superior Court, claims that Wyland’s comments included the following:

Unfortunately, there has been a lawsuit brought by a lot of investors of modest means against her and her husband for defrauding them … There was decision that those investors were defrauded and there is a judgment … 

Now, get this. Harkey claims that Wyland’s statements weren’t totally accurate, among other reasons because many of the investors were wealthy and not simply of “modest means.”

This is not a joke.

From Harkey’s complaint:

Only a portion of Wyland’s statement is true. A lawsuit was filed against Harkey and her husband. However, the characterization of the “investors of modest means” is false in that there are many investors who have substantial financial resources … with net worths exceeding $1,000,000. Also, all investors when subscribing to obtain their real estate investment represented that their investment amount did not exceed ten percent (10%) of their net worth… Wyland’s statement is an attempt to paint a picture that Harkey somehow attempted to take advantage of “the little guy”.

Apparently, it’s quite alright to take advantage of those with “substantial financial resources,” you know, “the big guy.”

But, not the little guy. Never the little guy.

Harkey’s complaint goes on to state there is no actual “judgment,” as Wyland is alleged to have stated, since the litigation “has not yet been completed.” It further notes that Harkey was dismissed from all of the litigation except for one of the claims. (Readers can see the entire document here.)

Technically, it appears the current status of the case includes a verdict in phase one and a stipulation in phase two, while the judge is reserving his formal judgment on the entire trial until the end of phase four.

By the way, political watchers know that Harkey and Wyland have each announced as candidates for State Board of Equalization next year.  So, of course, the lawsuit does include the bottom line:

Wyland made numerous verbal non-privileged communications about Harkey with malice for the sole purpose of embarrassing her politically and to bully and intimidate her so that Wyland, as Harkey’s political opponent, could be elected to become a Member of the California State Franchise Tax Board.

Why the complaint refers to the Franchise Tax Board is unclear, since the two candidates are running for Board of Equalization (the chair of the BOE does sit on the FTB).

Harkey further claims “severe and extreme emotional distress” resulting from Wyland’s comments.

It’s not clear if she is severely and extremely emotionally distressed by all the ongoing media attention about the case, seen by thousands, even if it is about her husband and not her.

But, she’s clearly distressed that her political opponent talked about it to a small group of activists.

Maybe she’s too emotional to serve as a member of the Board of Equalization.

How distressing.

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Comments 14

  1. I was at that Tea Party meeting when he made that statement. It was a setup question, designed to slander Mrs. Harkey. It was met with a groan from those who know Diane wasn’t involved in her husband’s business. Wyland looked like a cheap hack that night.

  2. Brian, set up by the Harkey people to try to get Wyland to say something slanderous? Or, asked by the Wyland people so he could go after her?

  3. That’s a good question, TA. The answer is “I don’t know” but I can relate the incident for inlookers and let them draw an inference.

    Wyland gave a 10-15 minute speech about…something. I honestly don’t remember because I was there to see Tim Donnelly speak. He did mention that he is running for BOE.

    Questions were to be submitted in writing. When Wyland finished, the VERY first question (submitted on an index card) was “tell us about your opponent’s legal problems”. Wyland had an immediate but crafted response (I’m paraphrasing): “Well, I promised to never talk about this but since you asked…hack, hack, hack”

    Contrast Donnelly’s Q & A with Wyland’s: issues, issues, issues

    I’d tell you to watch it in the Tri-City Tea Party youtube channel but they took Wyland’s speech down (while leaving Donnelly’s up). I imagine they had a good reason for deleting his speech.

  4. Putting aside the clear opinion in this piece by Mr. Larkin, on which I am expressing no opinion — there is news value to this post as it brings to light for the first time the existence of this lawsuit. 

    I will read it. 

    But my initial reaction is that it seems a bit extreme to file a lawsuit because your political opponent is making hay over your family legal issues.  

    But let’s see how this plays out, and if Harkey is willing to make the case for why taking Wyland to court was a reasonable course of action. Maybe the document provided in the column will answer this. 

    Either way, maybe former Assemblyman Van Tran knew about this. He just announced his candidacy for the same BOE seat…

  5. Is Mrs. Harkey for real? She gives passionate floor speeches on why adults who were molested as children should not be allowed to sue for damages, then files a lawsuit claiming emotional distress about comments made by a fellow legislator?!?

  6. Shady financial shenanigans. Then throwing her husband under the bus. Doesn’t sound like anyone we need on the BOE. I’ve always respected Wyland and his business savvy. I would have voted for him for that job before reading all this nonsense. Diane Harkey, whom I didn’t know much about until now, has just shared with me all I need to know about her, her character and her qualifications for the job.

  7. It seems that this lawsuit could be defeated with an Anti-SLAPP motion. If so, it could be very expensive to Ms. Harkey.

  8. BTW, I just took a look at the lawsuit. She’s asking for $5 million in damages for emotional distress. What a load of sh*t!

  9. Well she did state under oath that she never read the financial statements she received about her investments in her husband’s company at the civil trial. Yet here she is running for a seat on the BoE. If she can’t be bothered to read her own financials, how can she be trusted to stay on top of the complex financial masters she’ll be required to handle on the BoE?

    She pulled in between $200,000 to $260,000 a year in income from hubby’s business while all other investor’s redemptions were frozen (see Harkey’s Form 700). No wonder she kept her head buried in the sand.

    How can anyone elect someone who failed to take a stand for the investors she so profited from?

  10. SO I guess I can file a suit against Mr. Harkey for emotional distress since he has taken all my savings? He used our money to fight us getting it back, tho, and I don’t have those resources…

  11. More coverage resulting from this Rostra breaking news story…

    http://www.flashreport.org/blog/2013/09/16/harkeys-reasoning-on-lawsuit-against-wyland/

    http://blog.sfgate.com/nov05election/2013/09/16/republican-state-lawmaker-sues-fellow-goperfuture-rival-for-defamation/

    http://johnhrabe.com/diane-harkey-files-5-million-lawsuit-against-fellow-state-lawmaker/

    http://calwatchdog.com/2013/09/16/harkey-files-5-million-lawsuit-against-fellow-state-lawmaker/

    http://www.aroundthecapitol.com/nooner/2013-09-16.html

    http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-harkey-wyland-defamation-20130916,0,1346383.story

    http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/09/legislative-fight-diane-harkey-files-lawsuit-against-mark-wyland.html

    http://blog.pe.com/political-empire/2013/09/16/board-of-equalization-2014-rivals-head-to-court/

  12. Copy and paste of a comment I made elsewhere:

    I’m not going to say this is the stupidest lawsuit I’ve ever seen, but I’ll put it in the top 10%. Most of the allegedly defamatory are subjective opinions rather that demonstrably false or malicious.

    It seems to me that Mr. Wyland should be able to dispose this with an anti-SLAPP motion, which could result in an order that Diane Harkey be ordered to pay his legal fees. By filing the lawsuit, she’ll actually draw more attention to the issue of her family finances and the lawsuit against her husband. Beyond the attendees of the speech, hand anybody even really taken notice of the allegedly defamatory statements?

    My reaction: develop a thicker skin or get out of politics.

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