By Cameron Rasmusson
Yet another round of lawsuits questioning the legality of recent Bonner County commissioner decisions have hit the courts.
Hot off the heels of several wrongful termination lawsuits and tort claims over the past half-year, former county planning director Clare Marley sued the county last week in another wrongful termination claim. Lisa Grande, a former Bonner County EMS captain, is seeking $3 million in another wrongful termination claim. And Steve Temple, the former chairman of the Bonner County Planning Commission who resigned in protest of county commissioner actions, also filed a complaint against the county on March 28 for alleged violations of county code.
“I filed the action because I want a judge to confirm that the commissioners acted legally when they changed the code without actually following the existing code. That’s all,” Temple said. “If the judge agrees that they didn’t act legally, I have asked the judge to reinstate the old code. They would then have to change the code within the existing code.”
For Temple, the number of lawsuits in motion is reason to worry about the stability of county government.
“There have been at least four lawsuits filed since the start of the year due to the commissioners’ actions,” he said. “Those, and the Clagstone fiasco, normally wouldn’t be considered an indication of competence.”
The code changes Temple references are at the center of his decision to resign from the Planning Commission. In January, the Planning Commission decided to delay its recommendation on land use appeals process changes. County commissioners then scheduled their own hearing without a Planning Commission recommendation, which opponents said violated county code. Commissioners then changed county code to allow place limits on Planning Commission recommendations.
Marley’s lawsuit, meanwhile, seeks unspecified damages and reinstatement to her position for her firing in January. She also filed a tort claim seeking restitution for due process violations in her removal from her job. Her court filings contend that she was removed from her position for not reducing land use regulation without code-mandated public procedure.
That claim is mirrored in former county planner Dan Carlson’s lawsuit filed last year. Fired from his position in October, Carlson’s legal paperwork alleges the termination stems from an argument with Commissioner Todd Sudick, who wanted him to violate county procedure in the approval of a cell tower.
The county’s legal troubles don’t end there. Former Sandpoint planning director Jeremy Grimm is seeking about $100,000 from the county for damages to income and reputation. Grimm’s tort claim, filed in March, alleges his work responsibilities at Kochava were reduced after county commissioner complained to his employer about his comments at land use public hearings and in emails to county attorneys. A county property owner, Grimm has been active in a dispute between Alpine Cedar sawmill and nearby homeowners over the mill’s expansion of operations.
Finally, former Bonner County EMS director Robert Wakeley recently settled a longstanding dispute with the county over his alleged wrongful termination in 2014.
“I can confirm the suit ended and I am very satisfied,” Wakeley said. “I would add that I would have preferred to remain chief until my planned retirement at 70.”