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Ortega attorney seeks injunction against Dems

Posted July 30, 2012

Attorney Kieran Shanahan is seeking an injunction to stop what he says is the "demonizing" of former Democratic Party staffer Adriadn Ortega by party officials.

The request will be heard Wednesday afternoon by Wake Superior Court Judge Howard Manning.

Ortega retained Shanahan as legal counsel earlier this year, after a press conference at which Democratic Party Chairman David Parker addressed the scandal that led to the resignation of then-executive director Jay Parmley. 

Documents emerged in April outlining a complaint by Ortega that he had been sexually harassed by Parmley, and then fired when he went to party officials about the problem. A letter from Ortega spelled out his request for a severance agreement.  

At the April 19th press conference, Parker said there was no merit to Ortega's claims of harassment, defending Parmley as a "close talker" and "a friendly guy" who meant nothing sexual by his contact with Ortega. 

Parker also said some incidents Ortega alleged "probably...didn't happen," and added that Ortega's letter to party lawyers "smacked of extortion." 

Some Democrats suggested Ortega had leaked the documents to embarrass the party. But Ortega and Shanahan maintain the former staffer did no such thing. In fact, they're now accusing the Democratic Party of having breached the agreement's non-disparagement clause.

Ortega has not spoken publicly about the incident or the resulting scandal. He wasn't at today's scheduling hearing.

"What happened was, when the confidential settlement became public, the Democratic Party is now trying to demonize my client, suggesting things that aren't true," Shanahan said to reporters. "So the case is about defamation."

Shanahan says Parker maligned Ortega to hold the party together. "He was victimized, and he was retaliated against when he tried to get his rights. That's everything the Democratic Party says that they are against. And yet they're guilty of engaging in this kind of behavior."

"We're seeking an injunction whereby the court would say that the Democratic Party and Mr. Parker, who's named, must comply by the terms of this confidential settlement agreement which has a non-disparagement clause in it.  That's what we’re asking for," Shanahan said.

"Leave him alone as a private citizen. He can't find a job in North Carolina and he's being victimized so the Democratic Party can try to increase its chances of success in the fall." 

After he was retained by Ortega, Shanahan was named spokesman for the NCGOP. He says his representation of Ortega against the Democrats isn't a political gambit.  

"Mr. Ortega came to me in my capacity as an attorney," Shanahan said. "I think I've got substantial experience in the trial of law, particularly in defamation lawsuits."

But Shanahan concedes his political experience could be helpful as well.

"What was the motivation was for the party to come out and try to justify [Parmley's] behavior?" Shanahan asked.  "I do know a little bit about politics. So I think it's fair that Adriadn Ortega would choose someone of my background and experience, totally unrelated to my role in helping the [GOP] get out its message." 

The Democratic Party is being represented in the lawsuit by attorney Amanda Martin, who declined to comment today. The party's general counsel, John Wallace, is a witness in the case.  

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