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Board of Equalization contenders won’t duke it out in court

By Andrea Papagianis

A legal skirmish between two Republican state lawmakers vying for a seat on the Board of Equalization has ended, with Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, dropping a $10 million defamation lawsuit against Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Escondido.

The dispute stemmed from comments Wyland made at a Tea Party event in July, pointing to a high-profile, and dollar, lawsuit against Harkey, her husband, Dan, and his real estate investment firm, Point Center Financial.

The lawmaker was eventually dropped from the investors’ suit, but in July a jury held Dan Harkey and the company liable to investors, awarding some $10 million in damages.

“Unfortunately, there has been a lawsuit brought by a lot of investors of modest means against her and her husband for defrauding them,” Wyland told the Tea Partiers, according to court records. Harkey responded with a lawsuit.

A complaint filed with the Orange County Superior Courts in August accuses Wyland of making remarks with malice “for the sole purpose of embarrassing her (Harkey) politically” to “bully and intimidate” in order to gain an edge in the pair’s upcoming tax board election.

Harkey claimed Wyland’s remarks painted her in a false light and caused emotional distress, among other accusations. At the time Wyland spoke, Harkey was no longer named a defendant in most accusations against her husband. She challenged Wyland’s descriptions of investors as incorrect, stating in her complaint that many had a net worth greater than $1 million.

In September, Wyland said his attorney had begun the process of filing an anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (or anti-SLAPP) suit, which protects the right of free speech from lawsuits.Although no official records show the state senator filing such a suit.

Wyland is seeking reimbursement of attorney’s fees, according to the superior court’s docket. A hearing is scheduled for Monday, January 27 at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.

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