By REBECCA MEANY and MARK YORK
Idaho Mountain Express
Fifth District Judge Randy Stoker denied a request Tuesday by Sun Valley City Administrator Sharon Hammer for a temporary restraining order seeking to reverse a decision placing her on administrative leave pending an internal investigation of her possible misuse of city funds.
The request also sought to keep information related to her case discussed in City Council executive sessions from being disclosed.
Hammer filed a lawsuit against the city, Councilman Nils Ribi and Sun Valley City Attorney Adam King on Nov. 21. The lawsuit is seeking $1 million in damages for alleged violations of the Idaho Protection of Public Employees Act for alleged collusion between Ribi and King in trying to have her removed from her job as city administrator. It also accuses Ribi of harassment and physical threats against Hammer.
Hammer was placed on administrative leave Nov. 18 pending an internal investigation of her "possible misuse of public funds and equipment," according to an affidavit filed in court by Ribi.
A motion to obtain the restraining order was filed Nov. 21.
"There will be immediate, irreparable and permanent harm to my professional reputation and my reputation in the community should I be required to serve an administrative leave, even if it is with pay, due to the public perception that I have somehow done something improper," Hammer stated in a court affidavit.
Hammer's attorney, Jim Donoval, said Thursday that the judge determined he did not have the authority to force the city to reinstate Hammer to active status, partly because she is not suffering financial harm since her leave is with pay. Donoval also said the judge ruled that because information Hammer sought to keep from public disclosure had already been made public in Ribi's affidavits, he would deny that portion of the motion.
Donoval said that if a judge rules later in the case that items discussed in executive session were improperly made public by Ribi, that disclosure could add to damages.
In his affidavit opposing the motion, Ribi stated that "[t]he Plaintiff's attorney, who is also her husband, has made a series of threats to me, the Mayor, the City Attorney and my wife that demonstrate that his action in filing this case is designed to effect a political result and extract a large sum of money from the city.
"If this court grants a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction requiring the city to rescind the order placing the Plaintiff on administrative leave, the ability of the Mayor, the City Council and others who may have an interest in determining whether or not possible improper and/or illegal conduct by the Plaintiff has occurred will be compromised," the affidavit stated.
Donoval said he would wait to see how the city's investigation unfolds before taking further action.
Hailey attorney Keith Roark, who represents Ribi, did not immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment on the judge's ruling.