Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe published the following statement in the Idaho Mountain Express on Friday, August 31, 2012 regarding recent unproven allegations and lawsuits against the City:
The City of Sun Valley received word this week that it’s insurance carrier, ICRMP, has settled and paid another claim against former City Administrator Sharon R. Hammer and Former Mayor Wayne Willich, this time for actions against City Treasurer Michelle Frostenson.
Greg Moore at the Idaho Mountain Express provided coverage of this story in today’s paper which you can read at this link: “Sun Valley settles another tort claim.”
Please see the details below in the formal press release issued by the City on June 27, 2012 and at the City’s website at this link: “City of Sun Valley Press Release.”
FINANCE MANAGER/TREASURER’S DRAFT TORT CLAIM NOTICE SETTLED
On June 27, 2012, the City of Sun Valley’s insurer, Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP), reported to Mayor Dewayne Briscoe and City Council that it has settled any potential claim against the City of Sun Valley and its officials in response to a draft tort claim notice (“Notice”), which was submitted to ICRMP counsel from the attorney for City Finance Manager/Treasurer Michelle Frostenson. After full consideration of the matter, ICRMP settled the potential claim for a payment to Treasurer Frostenson of $84,127, of which $13,519 was for attorneys’ fees and costs. As in the recent settlement of City Clerk Kelly Ek’s tort claim notice, neither the Mayor nor the City Council were involved in the negotiations or ICRMP settlement with Treasurer Frostenson.
The basis of the draft Notice was the violation of the protections afforded in the State of Idaho’s “Whistleblower” laws. Treasurer Frostenson’s draft Notice states, “During the course of Mrs. Frostenson’s employment with the City of Sun Valley, it became known to Mrs. Frostenson that Ms. Hammer and other employees of the City had abused their respective positions and had thereby misappropriated City assets in various ways, which include, but are not limited to, the following: a) Misappropriating funds of the City; b) Use of the City’s motor vehicle and other City assets for personal benefit; c) Use of City-issued credit cards for personal benefit, other than City business; d) Misrepresentation of paid time off; e) Approval of fraudulent timecards of certain “special employees,” thereby allowing these “special employees” to receive benefits(s) to which they were otherwise not entitled; f) Creation of a hostile work environment by misusing positions of authority; g) Failure to comply with the anti-nepotism statutes, ordinances and/or rules which were in effect and were to be abided by individuals employed by the City.”
The draft Notice continues, “Mrs. Frostenson communicated in good faith the suspected illegal conduct and waste to Mayor Willich on or about October 5, 2011, and to the City Council on or about November 11, 2011. Following the communication, Mayor Willich forwarded a certain Notice of Advice Regarding Investigation to Mrs. Frostenson, which provided that ‘should you believe that any action or conduct by co-workers or supervisors is in any way intimidating or retaliatory to you as a result of your involvement with any employment investigation you are to notify your supervisor or the City’s outside counsel………’
Notwithstanding, on or about December 28,2011, and at various times thereafter, the City, its Council and specifically Ms. Hammer and Mayor Willich himself retaliated against Mrs. Frostenson by placing her on unpaid leave, by subjecting Mrs. Frostenson to offensive behavior and words, and by disparaging Mrs. Frostenson to fellow employees.”
Mayor Dewayne Briscoe informed of the settlement of this claim stated: “Many difficult issues have arisen before the City since the November election. The settlement of this claim, now following settlement of the City Clerk’s claim earlier this month, allows the City to move forward. None of these outcomes are easy. The next key step will be the completion of the City wide forensic audit. With City Council, I will continue to work vigorously to address and to resolve all matters, so the citizens of Sun Valley can trust that its officials and employees are engaged in the day-to-day business of good government.”
Sun Valley City and City officials deny any wrongdoing that is alleged in the draft Notice.
Mrs. Frostenson has tendered her resignation, which Mayor Briscoe has accepted. During the transition period to find and train a successor, Mrs. Frostenson will provide payroll and payable services, and assist with other duties required of the Finance Manager for the City, as an independent contractor.
The complete draft Tort Claim Notice is available on the City of Sun Valley’s website at www.svidaho.org.
Press Release approved for publication and posting by Mayor Dewayne Briscoe, June 27, 2012.
The City of Sun Valley received word this week that it’s insurance carrier, ICRMP, has settled and paid former City Clerk Kelly Ek to resolve her claims against former City Administrator Sharon R. Hammer and Former Mayor Wayne Willich for their actions against her.
Please see the details below in the formal press release issued by the City on June 11, 2012.
FROM: Mayor Dewayne Briscoe, City of Sun Valley
DATE: June 11, 2012
Re: Sun Valley’s City Clerk Tort Claim Notice Settled
On April 20, 2012, City Clerk Kelly Ek filed a tort claim notice alleging that, “Ms. Hammer (City Administrator) and Mayor Willich retaliated against Ms. Ek both directly by their offensive behaviors as well as disparaging her to fellow employees.” Ms. Ek’s tort claim notice cited a violation of Idaho’s “Whistle Blower” statute and other federal and state protections.
The tort claim notice included that “Ms. Hammer and Mayor Willich, in an effort to discredit Ms. Ek’s position, influenced Ms. Ek’s co-workers to criticize, shun, disrespect, and reject Ms. Ek’s effort in carrying out her responsibilities as City Clerk.” The tort claims the “malicious and unfounded retaliation” was a result of Ms. Ek bringing matters to the attention of the City Council concerning Ms. Hammer’s administration, which “violated her position of authority as Sun Valley City Administrator.”
The City of Sun Valley’s liability insurance carrier Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP) provided coverage for the tort claim notice. The Mayor and City Council were not parties to the negotiation and had no role in the settlement.
ICRMP has reported to the City that it has resolved all claims relating to this tort claim notice. ICRMP will pay Ms. Ek $65,000, plus $7,000 for attorney’s fees to resolve the matter. Ms. Ek tendered her resignation, effective June 8, 2012, which Mayor Briscoe has accepted.
Mayor Briscoe, informed of the resolution, stated:
This is another step in resolving the difficult issues, which were brought to City Council and me just after the November 5th election. It is my responsibility with City Council to guarantee to our citizens that all City officials and employees consistently meet the highest standard of integrity and comply with federal and Idaho state laws. We will continue in this endeavor as ongoing issues are resolved in the months ahead.
Today the Idaho Mountain Express published a story regarding the complete dismissal by Judge Butler of former Sun Valley City Administrator Sharon R. Hammer’s lawsuit against the City and our insurance carrier earlier this week.
I am particularly pleased the City confirmed in the story that not only was this lawsuit by Hammer wholly frivolous, so was the previously withdrawn lawsuit that named me, along with the City:
‘A news release issued by the city Thursday states that it “strongly maintained that this insurance lawsuit was wholly frivolous from the day it was filed, as was Hammer’s previous lawsuit. …” ‘
Here is a link to that story:
The Twin Falls Times-News, as of today, has been the only newspaper in Idaho to report, both in print and online, the action taken by our Mayor and City Council at our meeting last Thursday, January 19th. Here is the link to their story:
Sun Valley Mayor Fires City Administrator After Three-month Dispute
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Here is the latest update on the suit filed against the City of Sun Valley, myself, fellow Council member Bob Youngman, and City Attorney Adam King by City Administrator Sharon Hammer.
On Monday, January 16, 2012, following an inquiry from the press, I issued the statement below in response to their question about the withdrawal of the Hammer lawsuit:
I want to thank all of my friends and supporters who stood by me during these rather difficult past two months. The dismissal of the Sharon R. Hammer lawsuit and the investigative report that has cleared me of the accusations raised by Ms. Hammer are clear affirmations of the fact that I never harassed or threatened anyone in my role as city councilman. I was asked by two Sun Valley City officials to bring before the council evidence of questionable practices by Ms. Hammer and I did so. The charges made against me were an obvious smoke screen designed to divert attention from legitimate inquiry into certain financial practices at city hall during the last administration. I don’t doubt that the chicanery and wild antics of Ms. Hammer and her husband will continue for some time to come but I am pleased that the public will soon have an opportunity to judge Ms. Hammer’s conduct for themselves.
Also on Monday, January 16, 2012, the City of Sun Valley issued the following press release regarding the withdrawal of the Hammer lawsuit:
The day after a contested court hearing, including motions to stop Plaintiff’s harassing discovery requests and sanction Attorney James Donoval, Sharon Hammer voluntarily dismissed her lawsuit against the City of Sun Valley, Councilman Nils Ribi, City Attorney Adam King and Councilman Robert Youngman. Ms. Hammer’s two other lawsuits against the City of Sun Valley are still active.
City of Sun Valley officials are glad to see that this unfounded lawsuit has been dismissed. While their counsel, Kirtlan Naylor, communicated all settlement offers by Ms. Hammer to the City, this resolution of a voluntary dismissal by Hammer is the appropriate action.
At no time did the City’s insurer, ICRMP, threaten that legal counsel or insurance coverage for the City was in jeopardy, contrary to allegations by Hammer.
Mr. Naylor stated in court at the hearing, held January 11, that the City’s investigative report, which has been the subject of much discussion in the news and court filings, has been turned over to the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney for an independent review of possible criminal conduct. For that reason, it cannot be released for public consideration at this time.
The City of Sun Valley appreciates the patience of its citizens as appropriate steps are taken in this matter. Mayor Briscoe is committed to ensuring a strong and effective administration to conduct the business of the City. The dismissal of this lawsuit will allow the administration to now focus on the governing of the City and providing appropriate services to the citizens of Sun Valley.