Former Trump Campaign Staffer Jessica Denson Is Challenging A $25,000 Fine For Violating An NDA
According to court documents made public by BuzzFeed News this week, a former Trump staffer violated a nondisclosure agreement and has been ordered to pay the Trump campaign nearly $25,000 as a result. The $24,808 award happened as a result of arbitration in October, but BuzzFeed News discovered the award in a November court filing by the lawyers for Jessica Denson, the former campaign staffer. Denson has filed two lawsuits against the Trump campaign; she has not accused President Donald Trump of personal wrongdoing.
Denson was the Hispanic outreach coordinator as well as a national phone bank administrator for the Trump campaign, according to NBC News report from April. In the court documents, Denson alleged the nondisclosure agreement was being "weaponized" to keep her silent, according to the news network. NBC News reported that Denson had filed a state lawsuit in New York that alleged sexual and verbal harassment by her campaign supervisor.
The Trump campaign said Denson violated the nondisclosure agreement by filing her lawsuit, so the campaign took their case to the American Arbitration Association. "Arbitration is a private process where disputing parties agree that one or several individuals can make a decision about the dispute after receiving evidence and hearing arguments," according to the American Bar Association. But Denson "has declined to participate" in the process, according to BuzzFeed News.
Originally, the campaign wanted much more than the nearly $25,000 award, according to BuzzFeed News. First, the campaign wanted $1.5 million from Denson for allegedly violating her nondisclosure agreement. Then, the campaign asked for $84,571, which it claimed was the cost of its litigation. Finally, arbitrator Paul Kehoe then awarded $24,808, which is an amount that the campaign "reasonably expended" in their litigation efforts, according to BuzzFeed News.
In his order from mid-October, Kehoe found that Denson's nondisclosure agreement was "valid and enforceable," and Denson violated the agreement, according to BuzzFeed News. Kehoe also said that Denson made "disparaging statements" as a part of a GoFundMe campaign and on Twitter, the news outlet reported. Apparently the campaign had also asked for the money she raised via GoFundMe ($1,505 of a $90,000 goal), but the arbitrator said state law didn't allow for it, according to the report. Denson will also have to pay for legal fees, but the order didn't say how much that would be, according to BuzzFeed News.
But now Denson and her lawyers are disputing the award from arbitration in New York state court on Nov. 26, alleging that her claims of sexual harassment and discrimination weren't covered by the nondisclosure agreement she signed. (You can read the court filing here.) There will be a hearing for the lawsuit in late January.
The Trump campaign has entered legal battles with at least two other former campaign staffers over nondisclosure agreements. In July 2016, the Trump campaign sued former consultant Sam Nunberg; they settled in a confidential manner later in the summer. The campaign also went to arbitration with former staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman for also violating a nondisclosure agreement from the campaign.