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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of November 6 - 12, 2002


Melaleuca sues Roark for libel

Express Staff Writer

An Idaho Falls company that has financially supported the campaign of Republican attorney general candidate Lawrence Wasden has sued his Democratic opponent, Hailey lawyer Keith Roark, for libel and defamation.

Keith Roark

Filed Oct. 31 in 7th District Court in Idaho Falls, the suit stems from disputed claims about complaints filed over the years with the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division about Melaleuca Inc. The company’s CEO is conservative activist Frank VanderSloot, who led a campaign opposing Idaho Public Television’s airing of segments that allegedly promoted homosexuality.

In an opinion piece in the Oct. 31 issue of the Idaho Falls Post Register, Roark contended that Melaleuca companies had contributed more than $50,000 to Wasden’s campaign in an attempt to "buy" the office. Roark stated that the attorney general’s office had "investigated VanderSloot’s companies more than 100 times in the past 10 years."

According to Deputy Attorney General Brett DeLange, the Consumer Protection Division has received 81 complaints about the company since 1988. DeLange said consumer complaints are generally passed on for resolution to the company complained about. He said his office investigated Melaleuca once in 1991 about complaints that its representatives had misrepresented its products to prospective sales people. The investigation concluded that some individuals had acted improperly, though the company’s marketing plan was sound, and the company agreed to better enforce its policies. DeLange said he would not characterize each of the 81 complaints as an investigation.

In an interview, Roark said he got his numbers from various news sources, and contended that each complaint involved some sort of investigation. He said he had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit’s complaint, but did not take the suit very seriously.

"Have you ever heard of filing a lawsuit and providing copies of the complaint to the media before serving the defendant?" he asked.

Melaleuca placed a full-page ad in the Post Register on Sunday stating that its affiliated corporations had contributed to Wasden’s campaigns due to concerns about Roark’s "philosophy that ‘non-violent offenders’ like drunk drivers, embezzlers, white-collar criminals and drug dealers should not go to jail."

Roark called that description of his views "a total lie." He said he had advocated an examination of Idaho’s prison system to determine which offenders might be housed in institutions that are less expensive than high-security prisons.



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