Friday, May 31, 2013

Councilman says foe needs mental exam

Whistleblower: ‘I didn’t lie to newspaper’

Express Staff Writer

From top: Jim Donoval, Sharon Hammer and Nils Ribi

     An attorney representing Sun Valley City Councilman Nils Ribi has filed a motion in 5th District Court requesting that opposing attorney Jim Donoval “submit to a mental and physical examination.”

     Hailey attorney Keith Roark filed the motion on May 7. Donoval is former Sun Valley City Administrator Sharon Hammer’s husband and sometimes attorney.

     The legal dispute between Ribi and Donoval began in December 2011 when Roark filed a lawsuit against Donoval in 5th District Court on behalf of Ribi and his wife, Patricia Brolin-Ribi. The complaint claims that Donoval defamed Ribi in written statements sent to city officials in November 2011 that allege that Ribi suffered from mental instability. It also claims that Donoval caused Brolin-Ribi intentional infliction of emotional distress via an email he sent her.

     In June 2012, Judge Jonathan Brody tossed out Ribi’s claims and in late April did the same with Brolin-Ribi’s. In granting a motion for summary judgment filed by Donoval, Brody ruled that Donoval’s correspondences were protected as pre-litigation communication.

     A counterclaim filed by Donoval in January 2012 against Ribi and Roark is still pending. Donoval contends that Ribi defamed him by questioning his credibility as a lawyer in a document filed by Roark in a separate case. Donoval also contends that Ribi caused him either intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress by verbally harassing Hammer in a threatening manner.

     “In his claims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, [Donoval] has put his physical and mental condition in controversy,” states Ribi’s motion that Donoval be required to submit to the exam. “And [Ribi] has a right to verify such claims of emotional and physical distress through an independent examination of [Donoval].”

     On May 16, Donoval filed a motion for a protective order against such an exam, contending that an exam is “wholly unnecessary” for litigation of his claims. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for July 2.

     Donoval said in an interview after Roark filed the motion for examination that he and Hammer may request that Ribi submit to a similar exam in other pending litigation in the court and in U.S. District Court in Boise in which Hammer claims the city in January 2012 wrongfully terminated her contract.

     “There may be a basis for seeking an evaluation of Nils to show that Sharon’s fears of Nils’ potential instability were legitimate,” he said.


Appeal and cross-appeal

    Donoval has filed a notice of appeal seeking review by the Idaho Supreme Court of a ruling entered by Brody in February denying a request by Donoval that the city be compelled to produce bill payment authorization forms from 2010 and 2011.

     On April 24, Boise attorney Kirtlan Naylor responded on behalf of the city to Donoval’s notice of appeal by filing a notice of cross-appeal, seeking review of Brody’s denial of the city’s motion for an award of attorney fees and costs.


Whistleblower swears honesty

     In an affidavit filed in 5th District Court, former Sun Valley City Clerk Kelly Ek maintains that she spoke honestly to the Idaho Mountain Express during interviews in July 2012.

     Lewiston attorney Bently Stromberg filed the affidavit on Ek’s behalf in late March in response to a defamation lawsuit against Ek filed by Donoval on Hammer’s behalf on July 13, 2012.

     In the affidavit, Ek stands by several statements she made to the newspaper, including allegations that Hammer displayed a “shocking” lack of work ethic, “bullied and harassed” Ek and “embellished” claims of harassment of Hammer by Ribi.

     “The statements I made to [the newspaper] were not false,” Ek states.

     Ek further states that she did not “entertain any doubt” about the truth of the statements.

     In her complaint, Hammer alleges that the statements were made to intentionally damage her professional reputation, and that Ek was not present at any of the incidents of alleged misconduct by Ribi, even though she defended him in statements to the newspaper.

     In her affidavit, Ek states that “[b]ased upon my observations of [Hammer’s] interactions with Ribi, I believed some of the incidents [she] reportedly alleged took place between her and Ribi were embellished. … I was present … .”

Brennan Rego:

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