Former City of Rigby Planner Sharon Parry was recently awarded $366,000 for dismissal with prejudice and wrongful termination against the City of Rigby.
Parry and her lawyers initially filed a complaint Jan. 24, 2020 for Dismissal with Prejudice. The lawsuit specifically calls for reparations from City Clerk David Swager, Mayor Jason Richardson and Councilman Douglas Burke.
“My lawsuit against the City of Rigby for wrongful termination has settled upon terms which confirm that both the treatment prior to termination and my termination were wrongful,” Parry wrote in a statement to The Jefferson Star. “My time as the Rigby City Planner was, in the words of Dickens, the best of times and the worst of times. I love city planning and immensely enjoyed working with almost everyone that I encountered, especially including the dedicated planning and zoning commissioners, the residents of Rigby, and most of the Rigby developers. Rigby is a wonderful small town with great potential, and I continue to support and appreciate the businesses in Rigby.”
The filing outlines specific events where Parry was targeted by Burke after she stated that per Idaho code, city council members were unable to attend Planning and Zoning meetings as he would be in a quasi-judicial capacity on some of the issues and needed to remain unbiased.
According to the filing, City Attorney Robin Dunn stated that Parry was correct in her statement, as it would be “...like a judge or juror ‘going to the scene of a crime.’”
Richardson allegedly overruled this and stated that council members had permission to attend Planning and Zoning Commission meetings.
Burke allegedly began to make statements and take retaliatory actions against Parry like making derogatory statements against Parry to developers, holding Executive Sessions to discuss her without her knowledge or presence to speak on her own behalf, and worked to turn other city employees and council members against her.
Richardson allegedly told Parry that he had never seen someone “eat crow” as readily as her, took projects away from her on the basis of her being a woman, changed the agreement of Parry’s contract with the city, and did not allow Parry the due process in hearing complaints against her or taking her reports of unfair treatment into consideration, among other accusations.
The filing outlines alleged actions by Swager such as blaming his own mistakes on Parry, locking his office door to keep Parry from accessing necessary supplies for her work, unlawfully publicized Parry’s employment grievances, and provided false information to the City Council about Parry, among other actions.
“I am grateful to those elected and employed persons at the City who supported me during this difficult time, and express my best wishes to the City of Rigby,” Parry went on to say in her statement. “However, the City of Rigby and those elected to run the City need to do a serious adjustment and set a new trajectory for both following the law and respecting their employees. There is no excuse for what happened to me, and my first hope from this settlement is that the City of Rigby will chart a new path and develop a new culture including a higher commitment to following the law and insuring civility in the treatment of all employees and others served by the City.”
Swager gave no comment on the case and there were no images available of Swager for use. Councilmember Douglas Burke did not issue a comment either.
Mayor Jason Richardson sent a statement that said, “The City of Rigby, Mayor Jason Richardson, Councilmember Douglas Burke, and City Clerk David Swager, reached a settlement agreement through their insurer, the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP), to resolve a lawsuit filed against them by Sharon Parry, a former city employee. ICRMP procured the settlement to limit the costs and distraction associated with continued litigation. The settlement amount is paid solely through ICRMP; it is not paid by the city or any of the individuals. In exchange for the settlement payment, Mrs. Parry agreed to release all claims in her lawsuit.”
The filing states that Burke was largely behind the mistreatment as he had a personal vendetta against Parry and that Swager had mistreated other female employees in the past that had resulted in them finding employment elsewhere.
One statement in the filing says, “All actions taken by Sharon, including her notices and grievance letters to the City, were with the hope and goal of salvaging her jobs which she truly enjoyed until President Burke and Clerk Swager inappropriately interjected themselves for their own person reasons, whatever those may have been.”
The $366,000 payout was done by ICRMP, the city’s insurance provider which is funded by city tax payers.
According to Parry, ICRMP’s biggest expense is lawsuits by those that have been a “whistleblower.”