LAPWAI, Idaho – Lapwai has lost its insurance coverage and two members of its five-member city council have subsequently resigned.
Edmund W. Berry and Harold Williamson quit the City Council Wednesday in the latest wave of exits from the embattled government of the town of 2,000 residents on the Clearwater River east of Lewiston.
The Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, a cooperative of local governments that operates an insurance pool to cover property and casualty claims against cities, canceled the town’s insurance coverage effective Monday.
Program officials say actions by the city leadership in recent months posed too great a financial risk to other members to justify continued coverage.
Since January, the city’s police chief, clerk, deputy clerk and two city attorneys have quit their posts. The City Council has taken a vote of no confidence in Mayor James Angle, who fired one of the city attorneys and the police chief.
Williamson, mayor pro-tem of the Lapwai City Council, said the lack of insurance coverage prompted him to quit.
“The big reason is we’ve got no insurance,” Williamson told the Lewiston Tribune.
“I just don’t want to be involved in a situation where the City Council is going to have to be responsible if someone gets hurt.”
Angle refused to discuss the council resignations and said he canceled Wednesday’s scheduled council meeting, where he was to have reported on efforts to find a new insurance carrier, because not enough council members would be present for a quorum.
Angle, who was the target of an unsuccessful recall in 2003, can appoint replacements to the two vacant seats, which then must be confirmed by the remaining council members.
In January, Angle fired Police Chief Brad Mittendorf, who was reinstated less than 24 hours later on advice from the insurance cooperative. Mittendorf later resigned and was awarded a $32,779 settlement by the city’s insurer.
Angle also fired City Attorney Edwin Litteneker in January and hired David Risely as his replacement, but Risely resigned in July, at approximately the same time two city clerks quit.
Both clerks have filed tort claims, which must be ruled upon before they can proceed with litigation against the city in court.
Both claims were filed before the city lost its insurance coverage and are being investigated by the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program
The claim by former City Clerk Jeanne Calkins-Greiner has not been made public by the city but former Deputy City Clerk Lois Sonnen has asked for $250,000 in damages in her tort claim.
She alleges she was forced to resign because “harassment, intimidation and coercion” created intolerable working conditions at Lapwai City Hall.
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