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Eye On Boise

Ada taxpayers to foot $2.7M bill for county’s unsuccessful defense of whistleblower firing

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho county's taxpayers will need to cough up about $2.7 million to cover a lawsuit its officials lost against a former employee who had been fired.

Ada County's last-ditch effort Wednesday to not pay $664,527 of the former employee's legal fees had been denied, the Idaho Statesman reported (http://bit.ly/2r4Gq8X ).

The former employee, Rich Wright, had been fired in January 2013 the day after newly elected commissioners Dave Case and Jim Tibbs were sworn in. He had worked as the head of the Department of Administration and Ada County's spokesman.

Wright had filed a lawsuit the next month claiming he had been fired in part for ordering an investigation into allegations that a manager with the commissioner's office had been harassing employees.

He had said commissioners retaliated because the employee, who resigned, was a friend of former commissioner Vern Bisterfeldt's and took part in Case's and Tibbs' campaigns.

"(I)t is quite clear that both Case and Tibbs were acting together, and that their conduct was highly unusual," District Judge Kathryn A. Stricklen wrote. "Not one witness criticized Wright's performance. The Court does believe that the verdict for Wright was in accord with the clear weight of the totality of the evidence."

Case and Tibbs deny Wright's claims.

"We have the utmost respect for the judicial process and thank those citizens who performed their civic duty and served as jurors," they said in a statement. "We do, however, respectfully disagree with the decision in this case. We believe there was never any act of intentional retaliation against Mr. Wright. Even though we disagree with the ruling, the court has spoken, and we will honor that decision."

The county said it will not appeal the judge's order.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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