Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mayor, councilor dropped from lawsuit

City now lone defendant in Hammer case


By ERIC AVISSAR
Express Staff Writer

    Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe and Councilman Nils Ribi have been dismissed as defendants in a lawsuit filed by former City Administrator Sharon Hammer.
    Hammer, who was fired as city administrator without a stated cause in January 2012, claimed her discharge was retaliatory and in violation of the Idaho Protection of Public Employees Act. In Hammer’s complaint, she specifically cited Briscoe and Ribi as individual defendants, as well as the city.
    However, Fifth District Judge Jonathan Brody ruled on Nov. 22 that supervisors cannot be held accountable under the act as “employers.” A motion to dismiss the two individuals from the case was accepted after Kirtlan Naylor, the attorney representing Briscoe, Ribi and the city of Sun Valley, filed it on Sept. 19.
    “The charges filed against me were totally unsubstantiated and untrue,” Briscoe said. “They were filed to intimidate me from doing my job and to impair my effectiveness as mayor of the city. I’m very happy the charges were dropped.”
    Ribi said he was “very pleased” with the ruling.
    “I should have never been named in the first place,” he said.
Naylor said he plans to re-evaluate the case to try to clear the city as well.
    “We’re definitely pleased the court took the action that it did,” he said. “We believed there was clearly no legal basis for them to be sued individually.”
    Hammer could not be reached for comment on the suit. Her attorneys, Eric Swartz and Joy Vega, did not respond to questions about the case.
    Brody’s memorandum decision supported Naylor’s assertion that Idaho code was not designed to hold individuals liable under the state’s Whistleblower Act.
    “Only the State of Idaho, or another governmental entity, not an individual, could provide much of the relief prescribed by the statute, further illustrating that the Idaho legislature did not intend to have supervisory employees be part of the definition of ‘employer,’” he wrote. “An individual council member or commissioner could not individually take action to reinstate an employee or provide benefits.”
    Hammer and her husband, Jim Donoval, have filed several lawsuits against the city and city employees that are still active in the courts.
Eric Avissar: eavissar@mtexpress.com






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