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Archive for Monday, August 20, 2012

Basehor agrees to $200K for fired city official

Council issues formal apology

August 20, 2012

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The Basehor City Council on Monday agreed to pay a $200,000 settlement to former City Administrator Mark Loughry, 11 months after a surprise firing that sent the city tumbling into a period of political turmoil.

The settlement comes about seven months after Loughry announced plans to sue the city for public defamation, breach of contract and due-process violations.

The settlement, approved 5-0, elicited no comment from council members or any members of the public. As part of its terms, the city also issued a formal apology to Loughry for his firing and the allegations of wrongdoing by City Council members that surrounded it.

City Council President Travis Miles read the statement. It said that the current City Council and the city’s independent auditor had investigated the accusations against Loughry and found them to be false.

“Due to the disregard for legal advice, protocol and due process by former elected officials, the reputation has been unjustly damaged,” Miles read.

The statement also apologized to Basehor residents.

“You should expect better from your elected representatives, and we pledge to do our best to get things back on course and to bring professionalism back to this City Council,” Miles read.

None of the council members who voted to fire Loughry in September 2011 remains in office now. Two, Dennis Mertz and Iris Dysart, were recalled by voters in February, along with Mayor Terry Hill; the third, Fred Box, resigned soon after the recall election.

Monday’s meeting lasted only about 10 minutes and lacked any of the sometimes contentious public comment that was often present at council meetings following Loughry’s firing and preceding the February recall.

Mayor David Breuer, who as a council member was so angered by Loughry’s firing in September that he threw a stack of papers across the room, said after the meeting that he had been prepared to hear comments from the public. But, he said, perhaps residents had shown they were prepared to get past the episode.

“I think, generally, there’s just a lot of people that just like our city, and they just want to put it behind them, and let’s get on with some good things,” Breuer said.

Loughry, who was hired late last year as the finance director for the city of Raytown, Mo., was present at the meeting Monday. Afterward, he declined to comment on the settlement.

“I can’t really add much to that,” Loughry said.

The city’s liability insurance will pay for all but $5,000 of the settlement, Breuer said after the meeting, though the city will be on the hook for court, mediation and attorneys’ fees that could total well into five figures, he said. The effect that payment will have on the city’s insurance rates is unclear, he said.

Though they voted to approve it, Breuer said the members of the council had no input on the settlement reached with Loughry. The agreement was reached by the city’s insurance provider and City Attorney Shannon Marcano. Breuer said he was present at a mediation with Loughry in late July where the terms were reached, but he had no input.

After the firing, the Sentinel reported on a former city attorney’s accusations that Loughry had revised his contract to add additional health benefits for his family and misreported the wages he’d received from his previous employer, the city of Hays.

Loughry denied any wrongdoing in both instances, and the apology statement included in the settlement also said those accusations were false.

In January, a notice of Loughry’s intent to sue the city cited City Council members’ public comments surrounding those accusations, saying they were defamatory and false. It also said the council’s firing violated Loughry’s employment contract, which stated that he must be provided 10 days’ notice of any termination and be allowed to defend himself in a hearing with the City Council.

Breuer thanked the staff and the new City Council for handling the situation well. During Monday’s meeting, member Dick Drennon said he’d like the council to begin discussing what to do about the vacant city administrator job at its Sept. 10 work session — nearly a year after Loughry’s firing.

Comments

Hooligan_016 1 year, 8 months ago

This whole ordeal has been insane. Dennis Mertz grossly overstepped his duties as an elected official.

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