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Ex-employees of Department of Economic Security file libel suit

Two men who were fired from the Department of Economic Security have filed a libel suit against the Department of Public Safety. One is the former director and the other is the former security chief of the agency.

Both men were fired at the same time a year ago. The former director was fired by the governor after reports came out stating that he had used a state plane to fly to Nogales for the purpose of taking staff members out to a Nogales restaurant for drinks. The outing was allegedly during business hours.

DPS was then instructed by the governor to inventory the agency for weapons and ammunition that was unassigned to employees. They seized 55 handguns and close to 89,000 rounds of ammo. The DPS called the amount of ammunition excessive in their report, saying it surpassed what a sizable police department would need yearly by three or four times.

The former director and security chief filed their libel suit last month claiming the DPS investigative report defamed their reputation. Arizona courts do not allow a plaintiff to request a specific amount for damages in a libel suit. However, the former director had allegedly demanded $5.1 million in a prior demand letter.

DPS' attorney claims that the report is all fact and contains no libel. It relays what was revealed about DES in interviews with employees and others. One interviewee stated that ammunition was used for personal use by the two former employees, who would go to the gun range for practice and recreation. The DPS report also stated that no evidence was found to support those allegations.

The attorney for DPS stated that when it comes to a claim for libel, Arizona law says that there must be evidence to show a "false and defamatory statement concerning the plaintiff" and "that the statement was published" and "resulted in injury." He claims that their complaint does not meet those requirements and that the suit should be thrown out.

When civil litigation cases like this arise, attorneys must show evidence to support their client's claim. DPS' attorney has made his request for dismissal of the libel suit. Now the attorney for the two former employees of DES, if they actually have one, must provide counter-evidence, such as examples of statements in the DPS report that are defamatory to the clients' reputation.

Source: Arizona Daily Sun, "Arizona, attorneys ask that judge drop libel suit filed by Loftus, Jeffries," Howard Fischer, Nov. 20, 2017

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