July 23, 2014 - 12:01
$5000 could settle lawsuit
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An offer for settlement has been presented to the county in the pending wrongful termination litigation against the Election Commission.
An offer for settlement has been presented to the county in the pending wrongful termination litigation against the Election Commission. Melitte Harrison, who previously served as Election administrator, filed suit in 2012, claiming she was terminated because she was a woman and was replaced by current Administrator Steve Gaddis who was less qualified and had been previously terminated.
County Attorney Jimmy Logan told the County Commission last Thursday during the commission meeting that after depositions, Harrison made a settlement demand of $15,000. She has since lowered her offer to $5000.
Logan explained the county has already spent $7000 in fighting the claim. He said if the matter proceeds to trial, it will cost another $10,000-$15,000. Logan said if the County Commission and Election Commission agree to the settlement offer, they would be admitting no liability and it would be considered a nuisance settlement.
Third District Commissioner Sheena Gaddis asked Logan if the offer had been discussed with the Election Commission. She said they should be consulted before a vote was taken by the county commission. Logan said another $5000 would be spent by the time he went to them and came back to the commission, so he wanted to get approval for the expense beforehand.
Gaddis asked if the county could file to get their costs reimbursed if they won the case. Logan said no. He said they could try to petition for it, but it was not the type of case where costs are typically reimbursed.
First District Commissioner John Pippenger asked if the Election Commission would have to agree to the settlement since they were the named party in the case. Logan said the county was the real party of interest because they were the paying party. Gaddis said they were overstepping their bounds if election commissioners didn’t have a chance to talk about it. First District Commissioner James Woody said the Election Commission was aware of the number.
Second District Commissioner Greg Brooks asked why they were offering to settle and suggested the offer might come down further. Logan said there was a good chance they would be successful if it went to court, but that would cost the county $10-$15,000 more, and he would feel bad not bringing it to the county’s attention that they could get out of it for $5000. He said Harrison has spent between $10,000 and $15,000 so far, and she would be able to get her attorney’s fees reimbursed.
Woody made a motion to settle it for $5000. Third District Commission Randy Collins seconded. Brooks, Pippenger, Second District Commissioner Mike Curbow and Third District Commissioner Daren Waters passed; Woody, Collins, and First District Commissioner Buster Lewis voted yes; Gaddis voted no.
Pippenger asked if a motion could be designed to agree to provide the payment pending agreement by the Election Commission. Logan said yes. Pippenger motioned to move $5000 into the legal services fund that could be requested by the Election Commission. Curbow seconded. Gaddis voted no; all others voted yes.

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