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Hearing to dismiss lawsuit over alleged romantic affair

October 11 2018

A judge on Friday will hear a motion by staffing executive Nina Vaca to dismiss a lawsuit against her that has generated headlines in Texas and the rest of the US.

Filing the suit was Javier Palomarez, former president and CEO of both the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and its foundation, who claims Vaca orchestrated his termination from the chamber’s foundation after he broke off a romantic affair with her, according to court documents.

In her own filing, Vaca argues the lawsuit is designed merely to punish and chill her exercise of free speech and right to associate.

Vaca serves as chairman of the chamber’s foundation — the philanthropic arm of the organization. She formerly served as chairman of the chamber itself. Vaca is also chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group, which ranks on the list of largest US staffing firms, but the staffing firm is not a party in the case.

Palomarez’s suit drew headlines this summer. In addition to leading efforts to terminate him, Palomarez’s lawsuit said Vaca defamed him and inflicted emotional distress. Vaca’s attorneys, however, referred to the lawsuit as “weaponized litigation” brought by someone caught doing something wrong.

A filing by Palomarez’s attorney said the incident crushed his hopes of becoming the next governor of Texas. The suit seeks damages of not less than $50 million.

Palomarez’s filing contains photos of him and Vaca together as well as other allegations. It includes information on Palomarez, saying he grew up in poverty only to turn his life around, and that he got the chamber on firm footing after his hire. The filing also claims he was falsely accused of embezzling up to $1 million.

The affair was the greatest mistake in his life, according to Palomarez’s filing, but says he’s fighting against false accusations, healing his family and winning back his reputation.

“Healing his family does not mean hiding in the dark,” according to his court filing. “It also does not mean others can lie about him without consequences. It does not mean that others can accuse him of dreadful crimes without response.”

Palomarez’s suit includes Vaca as a defendant as well as several foundation board members and others.

NBC News reported in February that Palomarez left his position at the chamber itself under a cloud of allegations over sexual harassment and financial impropriety.

“Javier Palomarez can blame only one person for the loss of his job at the chamber and that’s himself,” said Brent Walker, attorney for Vaca, in a statement today.

“This lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to deflect attention away from his own questionable conduct and avoid answering valid questions about his actions at the chamber that led to his departure,” Walker said. “He’s trying to use the court system to continue in his pattern of bullying and abusive, destructive behavior. It’s not going to work.”

A filing by Vaca says Palomarez previously filed litigation on the issues in Dallas County and it was dismissed. Vaca’s filing takes issue with the wording in Palomarez’s petition that was presented.

“The legal issues raised by his petition are narrow and call for a narrow factual inquiry,” according to the filing. “Yet, Palomarez’s petition is filled with 50 pages of salacious and denigrating accusations irrelevant to the real legal issues. Since filing the petition, Palomarez has engaged in an ongoing public relations campaign to promote it to maximize its harmful impact. This conduct underscores the impropriety of the filing and the need for the court’s intervention to address the following wrongs.”

Vaca’s filing also calls for moving the case to Dallas County from where it’s filed now, Harris County, as well as for the case to be handled by arbitration.

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