A Wake County judge on Wednesday denied a request for a preliminary injunction against the state Democratic Party filed by a former staffer.
Adriadn Ortega filed the injunction request in June as part of his defamation lawsuit against the party and Chairman David Parker. Ortega alleges he was fired in retaliation for making sexual harassment complaints against his boss, Jay Parmley, the party's executive director, and the party violated a nondisclosure agreement and disparaged him.
His attorney, Kieran Shanahan, a prominent Republican who serves as a state GOP spokesman, said Ortega is concerned the party won't abide by the confidential agreement going forward nor make forthcoming financial payments as prescribed in the settlement. He also worried that the campaign season and upcoming Democratic convention in Charlotte will call attention to the case and prompt comments about Ortega.
Amanda Martin, an attorney representing the state Democratic Party, assured the judge the party would meet the agreement's confidentiality terms and make the payments, the amounts of which were not disclosed. "It's been dead quiet and our clients have said they intend to keep it quiet," Martin said.
Superior Court Judge Howard Manning said the current nondisclosure agreement is sufficient. "Why would they, after you filed this lawsuit, be dumb enough to go punch you in the eye?" he asked. "Why would they ... keep this thing alive when the best thing to do is hunker down and worry about trying to win the governorship or the presidency. That's a lot more important ... than disparaging your client."
In the hour-long hearing, Manning openly expressed disdain for the controversy that precipitated the lawsuit. "I suffered through all that stuff on TV until I thought I was going to lose it," Manning said. "David Parker ... 'I am going to resign. I am not going to resign' ... day after day."
"I feel sorry for your client," Manning added later. "Because he's collateral damage for some mess that nobody wants to hear about anyway. It's not relevant to people starving, people running for office -- it's not relevant to anything, AIDS in Africa, anything else."
Shanahan spent much of the hearing arguing the facts of the case, painting Ortega as a victim and suggesting the attention has prevented him from getting employment. "They were trying to do damage control and the way they were trying to do it is disparage my client," he told the judge.
Martin, whose law firm also represents The News & Observer, said the party will dispute Ortega's suggestion that it violated the nondisclosure agreement. Much of the dispute now is who gave reporters documents that detailed the alleged harassment.
In an affidavit, the party's legal counsel, John Wallace, suggests Ortega released the Dec. 8 letter in which he laid out the allegations of harassment, including unwanted touching and sexual advances. Wallace also said Ortega gave him permission to release the federal discrimination complaint filed against the party.
Ortega's lawsuit contends Democrats used the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint to "publicly paint Ortega as a dishonest liar and an extortionist."
In his own affidavit, Ortega stated that he didn't release the Dec. 8 letter and did not have one of his "affiliates" release a copy, as Wallace suggested. He said after hearing rumors about a former state party employee's intent to release the letter he tried to dissuade the unnamed person. Ortega suggested that the other staffer obtained the letter in the course of employment at the party.
The judge did not set the next court date.