The final remaining lawsuit filed by a former Sun Valley city administrator against the city, former Mayor Dewayne Briscoe and former City Councilman Nils Ribi has been settled.
Sharon Hammer and her attorney and husband, Jim Donoval, reached a settlement with the city’s insurer, the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, to settle the pending lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boise.
The settlement was filed in court earlier in April, and District Judge Edward Lodge dismissed the case. The parties were responsible for their own costs and fees; terms of the settlement agreement were not included in court filings. In emailed statements, neither Donoval nor Jacob Naylor, an attorney representing Sun Valley, disclosed the terms.
In a separate lawsuit in Blaine County 5th District Court, Hammer and Donoval agreed to drop a pending appeal. Judge Ned Williamson dismissed the case and ordered that about $21,000 in sanctions be imposed on Hammer and Donoval for their conduct in the lawsuit. They had appealed Williamson’s decision to the Idaho Supreme Court, but agreed to drop the appeal.
They have paid off the $21,000 judgment, according to 5th District Court filings.
Hammer worked as the city administrator in Sun Valley from 2008 until 2012, when she was fired. In 2011, she filed the first of a series of lawsuits targeting the city governments and numerous city officials.
She filed 10 lawsuits total, eight of which were dismissed. The U.S. District Court and 5th District Court lawsuits were the last remaining active cases.
“By settling these matters, the defendants do not admit liability and intend by the release to avoid further litigation and buy their peace,” a statement from Sun Valley, Briscoe and Ribi said. “ICRMP procured the settlement to limit the costs and distraction associated with continued litigation. The settlement amount is paid solely through ICRMP; it is not paid by Sun Valley, Mr. Briscoe or Mr. Ribi.
“The city of Sun Valley, Mr. Briscoe and Mr. Ribi look forward to putting this matter behind them.”
Ribi, Briscoe, the city government and other officials targeted in the lawsuits always denied Hammer’s accusations of misconduct and other charges.
In an email, Donoval asserted that a revised forensic audit report from May 2016 absolved Hammer of “most, if not all, of the misconduct claims that had been asserted against her.”
Hammer was fired from her job as city administrator following allegations that she used a city vehicle for personal use and had used a city-issued credit card to pay for gas for personal trips. She was also accused of improperly taking personal time off.
In the revised audit report, the auditor states that “there is also evidence that both former Mayor [Wayne Willich] and the Sun Valley City Council were aware of, and authorized, Ms. Hammer’s use
of the auto for personal purposes and did nothing to prohibit it.”
It also stated that Willich had authorized Hammer to take com-pensatory time off. Hammer worked as an on-call firefighter/EMT.
An initial investigation in 2011 focused on $23,494 in purchases made on the city-issued credit card for equipment for the Sun Valley Fire Department that were categorized as “excessive” or “unrelated” to the department, and that Hammer was aware of those. The revised audit report states that the Sun Valley City Council approved the expenditures as legitimate and related to the Fire Department’s operations.
In the email, Donoval wrote that he estimated the litigation, investigations and settlements cost more than $4 million, “most of which was paid for by ICRMP.”
The 5th District Court lawsuit accused Ribi of committing civil assault during a verbal altercation with Hammer outside a City Council meeting in September 2011, while the federal court case accused him and Briscoe of making stigmatizing and false statements concerning her termination.
“All of this could have been resolved in 2011 and 2012 when we asked that Ribi be required to resign,” Donoval wrote. “What a waste of taxpayer money!”