The City of Moab will pay former City Manager Rebecca Davidson up to $25,000 to end a lawsuit she filed in 2017 alleging the city and former Mayor Dave Sakrison wrongly terminated her.
In a related matter, a second lawsuit Davidson filed against current Grand County Clerk-Auditor Chris Baird, online newspaper Canyon Country Zephyr and others may have ended in failure for the former city manager after the Utah Supreme Court denied her efforts to have that defamation lawsuit reviewed earlier this month.
The lawsuit was twice dismissed by lower courts, and Davidson is now left only with the option to appeal the decision at the federal level, as she has now exhausted her options in state courts.
The decision to settle with Davidson in the civil rights lawsuit was a surprise for some given that the city and Sakrison had prevailed in lower courts before the matter was appealed.
The primary reason for the settlement was the rising costs of litigation with Davidson; attorneys for the city’s insurance provider encouraged the city to settle.
“The settlement amount will be paid by the city’s insurance carrier, Utah Local Governments Trust, and the vast majority of the expenses associated with the case have also been covered by the insurance carrier,” said City of Moab spokesperson Lisa Church on behalf of the city. “The city prevailed every step of the way in district court. However, given the probability of multiple appeals, continuing to defend the lawsuit would likely have cost far more than the sum agreed to in the settlement.”
Chris McAnany, the city’s contract attorney, said the city was precluded from discussing the settlement, except to say that Mayor Emily Niehaus and the City Council wanted to see the matter concluded – with neither party having to admit wrongdoing.
The city and Sakrison were accused of violating Davidson’s civil rights, whistle-blowing protection laws and wrongful termination. She accused Sakrison of orchestrating her termination after she asked the FBI to investigate the Moab Police Department.
The city, however, countered that Davidson was terminated after a third-party investigator looked into allegations that she mistreated employees and residents. The city had documented the problems it had with Davidson’s management style.
In dismissing Davidson’s case against the city, Judge Don Torgerson said she presented no evidence that the city harmed her and that her arguments were no more than speculation.
In a resolution signed April 23, the city council authorized Niehaus to sign the settlement agreement, effectively ending Davidson’s lawsuit pending the Utah Court of Appeals removing it from its docket.