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.