Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sun Valley terminates administratorís contract

Express Staff Writer

Sharon Hammer

Following an executive session Thursday, the Sun Valley City Council reconvened in public session and voted to approve the termination of City Administrator Sharon Hammer's employment contract.

Mayor Dewayne Briscoe announced that Hammer would be offered a lump-sum severance payment of six months' base salary.

Briscoe declined to comment on the reason for the contract termination, which was effective immediately. He deferred the question to Kirtlan Naylor, a Boise attorney appointed by the city's insurance carrier to represent the city in the matter.

In an email to the Idaho Mountain Express, Naylor did not comment on the reason for the termination, but said the severance payment was contingent upon her not suing the city regarding her termination.

"This would include conduct by city elected officials and employees acting in their official capacities," he said.

Whether she would be prohibited from filing a lawsuit on other issues, Naylor said, "[T]o quote [Hammer's attorney,] Mr. [Jim] Donoval, 'Anyone can sue anyone if they want.' Only the court can stop someone from filing frivolous lawsuits."

Donoval said after the meeting that Hammer's contract allows for termination without cause providing that the city pays her six months' salary.

Donoval said that means the city admits it doesn't have any legal complaint against Hammer that caused the termination.


When asked whether Hammer's termination was with or without cause, Naylor said, "There was no stated cause."

Hammer had been placed on paid leave in November and December by then-Mayor Wayne Willich, who returned her to active duty for a few days. Briscoe placed her on leave again Jan. 4 one day after he was sworn into office.

A conflict between Hammer and the city erupted publicly last November, when she filed a lawsuit against the city, Councilmen Nils Ribi and Bob Youngman, and City Attorney Adam King. In the suit, she alleged that Ribi repeatedly harassed her and, when she complained to Willich, Ribi sought to have her terminated from her position. She also alleged that Youngman and King colluded in that effort, and that the city should have done more to protect her from Ribi.

She sued under the Idaho Protection of Public Employees Act. Hammer dropped her suit against the city and the other defendants on Jan. 12, while retaining the right to refile.

Other, related lawsuits are still pending in 5th District Court.

As for Hammer and Donoval's next move?

"We're going to take a couple of days and figure out what we're going to do," Donoval said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Briscoe said he has been handling the duties of the city administrator. The city has not made clear if or when it will hire someone to replace Hammer.

Rebecca Meany:

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