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West Jordan has quietly approved a $75,000 payment to the city's Justice Court clerk supervisor to settle a federal lawsuit alleging she was sexually harassed, threatened and lied to in violation of her civil rights.
The settlement, approved on a 6-1 vote of the City Council in a special Saturday meeting, appears to close the door on a nasty internal battle that for more than three years had pitted city officials and prosecutors against the Justice Court.
"It's important to state that we're not admitting any liability or fault," Mayor Kim Rolfe said Tuesday, "but we want to put it behind us and move forward on productive things."
Justice Court clerk supervisor Shelley Thomas, who remains in her job, agreed to dismiss with prejudice her lawsuit against the city, former City Manager Richard Davis, City Attorney Jeff Robinson and assistant attorney Stuart Williams. The agreement means she can't refile the suit.
The city previously paid $42,000 in a settlement to cover legal fees for Justice Court Judge Ronald Kunz, who had a pending civil-rights suit against West Jordan and was himself the target of a legal effort by the city to remove him from the bench.
West Jordan also approved a severance package worth an estimated $200,000 for Davis, the former city manager who resigned abruptly and without explanation last August within days of a Salt Lake Tribune report on the legal battle.
The settlement with Thomas spells out that the city does not admit wrongdoing. It does guarantee that "Thomas' interest in her employment and retirement funds has not been affected by the litigation or the resolution of the litigation. Shelley Thomas shall be employed by the city in her current position subject to the same standards to which all city employees are held."
The years-long turmoil surrounding the case began in 2011, when city officials filed complaints against Kunz, the Justice Court judge, with the state Judicial Conduct Commission, including allegations that he leaked confidential criminal records.
The commission found the actions constituted "troubling but relatively minor misbehavior," issuing a warning but no disciplinary action.
Unsatisfied, the city prosecutor pressed the allegations with the Salt Lake County district attorney's office, which filed a misdemeanor charge. Kunz was acquitted of disclosing confidential records after West Valley Justice Court Judge Brendan McCullagh threw out evidence he said was illegally seized from Kunz's desk.
Thomas, in her lawsuit, alleged she was bullied by prosecutors, city officials and a state investigator using an expired subpoena and threats of job action or prosecution into accompanying them into Kunz's private office while he was out and taking documents from his desk.
In a separate allegation, she claimed that a prosecutor and a legal secretary harassed her, holding up a sign directing her to "Show us your ?"
Thomas' attorney did not return a call seeking comment.
Councilman Chris McConnehey cast the lone vote against the settlement out of concern about the appearance of a lack of transparency.
He pointed out that an item added to the agenda the day before the special Saturday meeting referred only to "Resolution 15-24, approving a settlement agreement for pending litigation."
"It gives the appearance that we're meeting in secret on a Saturday morning early with a last-minute addition to take action here," McConnehey said. "Really, there's nothing shady or questionable about what we're doing, and I think if we'd have been a little more clear and at least included the [lawsuit] name, it would have dispelled a lot of potential concern."
The mayor said it was important to act because of certain deadlines the city was running up against.
"Not that we're hiding anything," Rolfe said, "anybody can get this information [about the settlement]."
West Jordan's City Council also approved an offer of up to $60,000 to settle claims against it on behalf of a Sandy couple killed in a kayaking trip on the Jordan River in 2010.
Kelly Frye-Glasser and Joseph Glasser perished when they went over a low-head dam and were pulled under by a strong undertow.
A 3rd District jury awarded the family $2.4 million but all of the government entities sued the state, Salt Lake County and Murray already had settled, leaving West Jordan, which was assigned 5 percent of the liability.
Eric Olson, the attorney for the family, said Tuesday he hadn't received the offer. One element not mentioned by the City Council was a demand that a new portage be constructed upriver from the dam site, which Olson said West Jordan had blocked.
West Jordan Mayor Kim Rolfe said the city is in talks with Salt Lake County, and he is optimistic an agreement will be reached on installation of a portage.