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Lawsuit settlement lets Miller avoid revealing expense info

Matt Buxton

FAIRBANKS -- Court documents show the Fairbanks North Star Borough was seeking to reveal a slew of details Joe Miller had fought to keep secret before the former U.S. Senate candidate accepted $5,000 to end the lawsuit on Monday.

The borough had sought information about Miller's legal fees -- and how he was paying them -- as well as his political activity, the basis for his damages and much of his evidence to support his allegation the borough or former mayor Jim Whitaker improperly released information from his personnel file during his 2010 bid for U.S. Senate.

At oral arguments on June 6, the court ordered Miller to comply with the borough's request for information about his legal expenses and who was paying them. At one point Miller said the expenses were about $10,000 per month and were paid by the campaign up until January 2011.

Borough documents suggest Miller continued to pay the costs out of leftover campaign funds, a claim Miller has squarely denied.

The deadline for him to produce the information was Tuesday, the day after he accepted the judgment, effectively ending the lawsuit and any requests for information.

When asked about the timing of the judgment, Miller's spokesman Bill Peck said it was Miller's goal to get a judgment and not to dodge the question. The borough's offer expired at the end of the day Monday, Peck noted.

Miller has characterized the judgment as a victory.

"Why go forward? It's over, in Joe's favor," Peck said in an email. "Rather than this acceptance to be viewed as 'hiding from having to face the judge' (so to speak), this decision that was based on admitted liability should be seen as the positive end to a long and trying case for everyone."

The borough and Whitaker said the judgment isn't an admission of wrongdoing but instead was a way out of the costly and time-consuming lawsuit.

Monday's judgment, if approved by the judge, will close the door on the case, ending all outstanding legal questions. But the disagreement over Miller's public statements about judgment, along with outstanding legal disagreements, may keep the door open a bit longer.

On Thursday, the borough filed a motion brimming with exasperation, asking the court to order Miller to "stop playing games" and require Miller to produce the documents outlining his legal expenses and who has paid them, even though the case is close to being finally settled.

"At the risk of understatement, using campaign funds for personal reasons unrelated to the campaign would seem to be a problematic interpretation of federal election law," the document states. "This is probably why Miller willfully refused to discuss his damages in any detail. ... For unknown reasons, Miller has persistently and continually refused to 'come clean' about who was funding his litigation and in what amount."

The latest filing also requests Miller pay the borough's legal fees.

In previous documents Miller had cited attorney-client privilege as well as the need to hire an expert when declining to answer questions about his legal expenses.

In the months leading up to the judgment, Miller had offered to have the borough agree to a judgment of $50,000, then later $25,000. The borough made one settlement offer in which Miller would get nothing.

The June 6 hearing resulted in a judge ruling against Miller's claims for monetary compensation for damages resulting from the alleged leak of information. The only remaining issue after the hearing was the question of whether the borough had violated his privacy.

On June 18, the borough filed a request to depose Miller on July 31, where it would have also asked Miller to produce documents relating to his legal fees, any statements made by borough employees that he believed are false, secretly taped audio recordings of conversations with borough employees the borough believes he has as well as complete records of any conversations he had with political figures, such as Sarah Palin or David and Charles Koch, regarding his employment at the borough.

Miller will have time to reply and file an objection, if needed, to the borough's request before the judge considers it. And if the court doesn't address the borough's request, the filing asks for the borough to be excused from the litigation.

"We simply cannot keep fighting this same battle over and over and over again," it writes. "Miller is making a mockery of process and procedure."

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