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Ex-Development Director Sues Sandpoint Johnson Claims Damages For Elimination Of Position In 1996

Former economic development director Susan Johnson is suing the city, saying the mayor wrongly eliminated her job nearly two years ago.

The lawsuit, which names all the City Council members and Mayor David Sawyer, doesn’t ask for a specific dollar amount but seeks back pay from March 1996.

Johnson earlier filed a tort claim against the city, asking for $1.6 million in damages. She earned $32,900 as head of the Bonner Business Center, an organization to help small businesses in the area get started.

Johnson’s husband, “Beaner” Johnson, had landed low-rent space at the center to design a computer program for use in restaurants owned by him and his wife.

The apparent conflict had nothing to do with Susan Johnson’s job being eliminated. The city claimed it was in a financial squeeze and needed to cut programs and employees to save money.

Johnson was the only person whose job was eliminated. The city did cut $10,000 from the police and fire department, recreation and city clerk budgets that year.

In the lawsuit, Johnson alleges she was singled out and the city failed to follow proper procedures in terminating her. The mayor convinced council members a financial emergency existed when one did not, the claim said.

Council members voted three times on whether to remove Johnson. After the first vote to remove her, the council changed its mind and Johnson was reinstated. The second vote to eliminate her job ended in a tie. The third vote also ended in a tie, but the mayor was able to vote by declaring the city had a financial emergency. Mayor Sawyer cast his vote to rid the city of its economic development director.

When Johnson requested a hearing before the city’s personnel review board, her request was denied. According to the the lawsuit, Sawyer sent a letter saying a hearing was not necessary. Johnson technically was not fired, her job was eliminated, the mayor’s letter said.

Actions by the mayor and council were an “extreme deviation from all reasonable standards of conduct and were done in an outrageous … manner,” the complaint said.

, DataTimes MEMO: THE CLAIM The lawsuit names the City Council members and Mayor David Sawyer, and seeks back pay from March 1996.

THE CLAIM The lawsuit names the City Council members and Mayor David Sawyer, and seeks back pay from March 1996.