05/02/08 — Slander suit filed in District 12 race

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Slander suit filed in District 12 race

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on May 2, 2008 1:46 PM

Attack ads from both camps in the race for the Republican nomination for the state Senate District 12 seat have escalated, and now one candidate has filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court.

Nena Reeves, of Clayton, filed the suit Thursday against her opponent David Rouzer, of the McGees Crossroads community, as well as the Friends of David Rouzer Committee, Impact Strategies Inc. and Robert J. Rosser.

She is seeking to "recover judgment for actual and punitive damages resulting from the defendants' conspiracy of common law defamation in publishing by mail and otherwise, false malicious reports that plaintiff (Mrs. Reeves) 'recently' owned a company involved in 'Medicaid fraud' that owed the state 'over $400,000.'"

The complaint stems from a mailing that Rouzer acknowledges was distributed by his campaign, asking voters to ask themselves if they can "trust Nena Reeves."

It then goes on to reference a Feb. 26 News & Observer report that "a company owned by Nena Reeves owed the State of North Carolina over $400,000. And then there are the numerous examples of Medicaid fraud involving Nena Reeves' company's employees."

The only problem, Reeves said, is that she didn't own the company -- Health Services Personnel Inc. -- at the time of the investigation into its community support practices by the state Department of Health and Human Services as part of last year's continuing mental health reform efforts.

"I had no ownership and nothing to do with it," she said. "And nothing's been proven at this point."

She explained that when she sold the company in May 2005, not only had the practices being investigated by the state not even been approved yet for Medicaid repayment, but that the time frame of the investigation was August 2006 to January 2007.

Rouzer, however, explained the second reference to Medicaid fraud stemmed from incidents that occurred in the late 1990s when Mrs. Reeves did own the company.

"That was what was cited in the mailing. And we didn't say Ms. Reeves was guilty of Medicaid fraud. We said it was her employees," he said.

Beyond that, though, he had little to say on the suit, preferring to wait until he discussed it with his attorneys.

"I can't really comment until we have a chance to look and see what we're talking about here," he said, standing by the comments. "All I can say is that everything we did was cited and it was based on the public record."

But Reeves said she thinks the mailing was an attempt to strike back at her for her own ads attacking him for his support of a failed comprehensive agricultural guest worker bill last year, the Agricultural Job Opportunity Benefits and Security Act of 2007, that could have potentially provided a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants -- a practice he has come out against according to the positions on his Web site.

"I think he's pushing back because he has been exposed as lobbying for an amnesty bill," she said. "I think the voters should know what he's lobbied for, and he's now trying to discredit me."

Rouzer, however, says it's the other way around.

"She has distorted my record completely these last few months," he said. "But campaigns are tough."

Neither, though, is sure what effect the controversy will have on Tuesday's results.