A civil lawsuit that ex-City Manager Rebecca Davidson filed against the City of Moab and former Mayor David Sakrison was effectively dismissed Wednesday, Dec. 26, after Seventh District Judge Don Torgerson issued a ruling.
Davidson filed the lawsuit, one of two, after she was terminated in 2017. The city and Sakrison maintained she was fired due to an often-hostile management style that a third-party investigator, after interviewing employees, determined Davidson’s continuing employment was untenable.
Davidson claimed she was terminated for bringing to the FBI her concerns regarding the city police department. She claimed the city violated her constitutional rights to free speech and protected speech.
Torgerson indicated those claims were based on a “hunch” rather than facts. He noted Davidson was unable to provide evidence that Sakrison, specifically, lobbied “behind the scenes” for her termination after going to the FBI, and that members of the city council accepted the findings of the independent investigator because Sakrison provided them with false information.
The judge wrote that Davidson supported her argument with three facts: She previously had a passing performance review, she was not told why she was put on administrative leave four months later, and she was terminated after meeting with the FBI. “Otherwise, she is speculating about the basis for her termination, but definitely feels like it was retaliatory,” he wrote.
Later in his ruling, Torgerson reiterated Davidson’s lack of evidence: “In sum, plaintiff has not provided any evidence to show that her speech about the police department was even a factor – let alone a motivating factor – in the city council’s decision to terminate her employment,” he wrote.
Torgerson ruled in favor of the city and Sakrison based on the evidence shown on behalf of the city – and what Davidson failed to show. In issuing summary judgment for both defendants, Torgerson noted Davidson failed to prove causation, meaning that her termination was in retaliation for talking to federal agents, and that the council would not have voted to fire her had she not gone to the FBI.
“She has not produced any evidence demonstrating that her hunch in that regard is correct or disputing defendants’ position,” wrote the judge. On the other hand, Torgerson noted the facts support the defendants’ request for dismissal. Each of Davidson’s alleged causes of action were dismissed.
Phone calls seeking comment from city officials, Sakrison or Davidson, or their attorneys, Zakia Richardson for Davidson and Mary Ann May for the city and Sakrison, were not immediately returned.