A former employee’s lawsuit alleging that Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen’s hog farm knowingly hired undocumented workers was dismissed Wednesday with prejudice.
The former employee dropped his case against Pillen Family Farms and agreed not to file it again. Both sides agreed to pay their own court costs. It was not immediately clear whether the two sides had reached a settlement agreement.
Neither lawyer assigned to the case returned calls seeking comment. The Pillen campaign declined to comment.
In November, a Pillen spokesman described the lawsuit as a smear campaign by Democrats and “an anti-conservative, pro-illegal immigration activist” whom the Pillen farm had fired.
The lawsuit was filed July 21, the same day Pillen announced his GOP bid for governor. It was dropped March 2, the day after Nebraska’s filing deadline for additional candidates.
The law firm that sued Pillen is run by Vince Powers, a longtime leader in the Nebraska Democratic Party. His firm has a history of suing large corporations, often successfully.
Powers chatted briefly by phone Wednesday until being asked about the case. Powers then said he was at lunch and hung up. He responded to subsequent text messages with a single line:
“The lawsuit was dismissed,” he texted. Asked why, and whether a settlement had been reached between the parties, he repeated, “The lawsuit was dismissed.”
Attempts to reach the former Pillen employee, Luis Lucar, were not successful. His lawsuit had alleged Pillen’s company hired farm workers without papers proving their immigration status.
It also alleged that the company altered government forms and company documents in order to help employees and the company avoid paying taxes.
Lucar’s lawsuit alleged that he lost his job because he wouldn’t participate in hiring practices he believed were illegal. He had worked in human resources for Pillen Family Farms. Pillen’s lawyers have disputed the allegations and denied wrongdoing.
Polling in the governor’s race places Pillen among the top three candidates to win the May 10 Republican primary election, along with Charles Herbster and State Sen. Brett Lindstrom.
But the immigration lawsuit loomed over his campaign, with local political observers saying privately they expected an onslaught of negative advertising about the allegations.
Pillen, Herbster, Lindstrom and a fourth candidate, Theresa Thibodeau, have each discussed the immigration issue in their campaigns.
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