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Miller accepts offer of judgment in lawsuit

Posted: June 20, 2012 - 12:01am

JUNEAU — Former U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller has accepted an offer from the Fairbanks North Star Borough to end a dispute over alleged leaks about his work.

Miller’s attorney, John Tiemessen, filed papers Monday accepting the offer made earlier this month by the borough and former Mayor Jim Whitaker.

The offer allows for judgment to be entered against the borough and Whitaker for a total of $5,000, saying it is an “offer of compromise” and is not an admission of fault. The offer says that both the borough and Whitaker viewed Miller’s claims as “without legal or factual merit.”

Tiemessen said a judge must still sign off on the deal.

Miller accused the borough of improperly leaking information from his borough personnel file during the heated 2010 U.S. Senate race, which incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski won after mounting a write-in campaign after losing the GOP primary to Miller.

Miller had worked part-time for the borough from 2002 to 2009.

The borough has denied any wrongdoing.

Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins said in a news release Tuesday that he felt it was in the best interest of taxpayers “to put a stop to this litigation and legal expenses with this low monetary offer.”

The borough said Miller initially claimed more than $160,000 in damages and offered to settle the case earlier this year for $50,000. The offer was later reduced to $25,000, the borough said. “We were not expecting him to settle so quickly,” Hopkins said.

Miller, in a news release sent late Monday, said the judgment is “minimal” but the case was never about money.

“Rather, this case was about getting at the truth and setting the record straight. There is now a permanent record doing just that,” he said.

Tiemessen said Miller’s team discovered most of what it set out to discover, including that there had been a meeting in May 2010 between Borough Attorney Rene Broker and Whitaker, who was a former mayor at that time. He said the parties claimed attorney-client privilege surrounding the meeting, indicating a belief that some kind of legal advice was given.

Miller said the two discussed disclosing his confidential personnel information during a secret meeting.

The borough said the meeting was listed in Broker’s public calendar and that former mayors can seek advice “about events that occurred while they were in office.”

The borough said there “never has been any evidence that any Borough employee leaked or disclosed any information from Mr. Miller’s personnel file except as allowed by law.”

In February, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported that Broker said in a deposition that the meeting included a conversation about Whitaker’s legal obligations as a former mayor under the borough code. The paper reported that prior depositions keyed in on parts of the ethics code, including a section stating that a current or former mayor “may not disclose or use, without appropriate authorization, information acquired in the course of official duties that is confidential by law.”

Whitaker, in October 2010, told the paper Miller almost lost his job as an attorney with the borough for using government computers in an unsuccessful bid to overthrow Alaska’s GOP chairman in 2008. Whitaker said he felt compelled to speak out because he didn’t think Miller would.

Media organizations later gained access to Miller’s personnel records following open records requests and a subsequent lawsuit.

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