Ketchum, mayor sued for freedom of
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Ketchum and its mayor were named in a
lawsuit Monday alleging violation of a former contractorís right to freedom of
Itís the second time in his relatively
short tenure with the city that Mayor Ed Simon has been named in a lawsuit
stemming from personnel complications at the resort townís city hall.
Steve Linden, a citizen of Ketchum and
former Ketchum Police Department computer guru, filed the lawsuit in Fifth
District Court in Hailey. In four counts, he is seeking damages "in an amount to
be proved at trial but greater than $10,000."
Lindenís lawyer, Cynthia Woolley, said
punitive damages might also be forthcoming.
"Itís crystal clear," Woolley said. "The
First Amendment protects employees, including independent contractors. Thereís
really no question that this was a violation of Steveís First Amendment rights."
For several months, Linden, a
self-employed computer networking technician, has been one of Simonís most
outspoken critics, most recently in a Dec. 11 letter to the editor of the Idaho
Mountain Express that concluded, "I strongly advise the citizens of Ketchum to
watch Simonís game and especially keep an eye on the sleeves."
Linden said he showed up at Ketchum City
Hall on Dec. 24 to work on the police departmentís computer network and was
asked to leave and not return. He had worked on the network for at least the
previous five years.
Linden said in a December interview that
he believes his dismissal was an act of retribution for his commentaries.
"Letís put it this way: It wasnít for lack
of performance," he said. "Iím sure it was retribution."
Simon disagreed, in a separate December
"Itís not retribution. I believe in
freedom of speech," Simon said. "I also believe that if you want to criticize
someone, you should give them an opportunity to address your concerns first.
"When I found out he was working fixing
police department computers, there was certainly a connection. If heís going to
undermine my authority without approaching me or asking me to clarify something,
I donít want him working in the police department."
Linden said efforts to negotiate an
amenable solution with the city have not born fruit.
"Unfortunately, Cynthia (Wooley) has been
unable to convince them to reinstate me, for reasons I donít understand," Linden
said. "You simply can not allow somebody to get away with this type of
The Ketchum City Council called an
emergency executive session Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m. to be briefed on the
issue. City Attorney Margaret Simms said she could not comment on the lawsuit
before that meeting.
Woolley, an employee rights attorney who
works for The Roark Law Firm in Hailey, represented former Ketchum Police Chief
Cal Nevland and Assistant Police Chief Mike McNeil in a lawsuit brought against
Simon and the city last summer, after Simon hired Blaine County Deputy Sheriff
Ron Taylor to be the cityís assistant police chief.
That lawsuit was settled out of court,
and, ironically, was the catalyst behind Lindenís dissatisfaction with the
"Iím a taxpayer in Ketchum. I work very
hard for my money, and I canít afford to pay people $65,000 for a two-week
vacation," Linden said in December, in reference to the settlement paid to