Former City of Sunnyside Finance Director Bud Schatz is seeking a minimum of $2 million in a lawsuit that names both the city and City Manager Robert Stockwell as the defendants.
Schatz was fired by Stockwell in early March of this year.
Specifically, the claims against the city and Stockwell include wrongful termination, that his firing was in violation of public policy, breach of contract and defamation. Schatz also claims an invasion of his privacy, loss of consortium and a violation of due process rights.
Schatz has secured the services of the law firm Ogden Murphy Wallace, P.L.L.C. of Wenatchee to represent him.
An employee of the city since 1984, Schatz was fired by Stockwell during negotiations between the city and a firm that was being considered to operate Sunnyside's water and sewer systems. Just prior to a city council vote on whether or not to accept the firm's proposal to privatize the operations of the water and sewer systems, figures released by Schatz showed there wouldn't be the financial savings city leaders had been led to believe would occur.
The point of contention, apparently, is how involved Schatz was in working up the original set of figures that showed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of savings over the course of a 10-year contract with the firm in question.
In the lawsuit that was delivered to the city, Schatz's attorneys detail that the City of Sunnyside's administrative procedures state the city could only discipline Schatz "for cause." The attorneys also spell out that the city's administrative procedures require advanced written notice of any potential discipline and of a pre-disciplinary hearing. The lawsuit contends that Schatz was terminated without any advance notice, pre-disciplinary hearing or just cause. The lawsuit continues to point out that the city publicized its termination of Schatz and falsely claimed he was negligent in his job performance.
Schatz and his wife, Barbara-both listed as plaintiffs-are claiming to have suffered lost wages, lost benefits, loss of consortium and emotional pain and upset.
The Schatzes are seeking a minimum of $2 million from the city and Stockwell, plus attorney fees.
When contacted yesterday, Stockwell said the lawsuit has been forwarded to the city's insurance carrier. He declined to comment on the case, noting that part of the process is to receive counseling from the insurance carrier on how to publicly respond to the charges. Stockwell did say that normally it takes a couple of weeks to hear back from an insurance company.
Whether the lawsuit will ever reach the court system or be settled out of court, that decision ultimately is in the hands of the city's insurance provider. But, Stockwell said he and the city will work closely with the insurance carrier to determine if the charges should be defended or if a settlement should be reached.