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3/20/2013 9:41:00 AM
Dewey-Humboldt settles wrongful discharge lawsuit for $30K

Sue Tone
Reporter


Dewey-Humboldt council members reached a settlement agreement with former town employee Dennis Price on March 5 after an executive meeting on a lawsuit filed in April 2012.

The lawsuit alleged several claims, including wrongful discharge against the town and two council members, David Hiles and then Vice Mayor Mark McBrady. Hiles and McBrady recused themselves from the March 5 executive session and did not vote on the settlement.

The council voted 5-0, after reconvening into public session, to accept the settlement agreement that awards Price a total sum of $30,000 paid in three checks: $4,500 to Price, less state and federal taxes, for wages; $12,600 to Price, no taxes withheld; and $12,900 to the law firm of Warnock, MacKinlay & Carman, PLLC.

The agreement joined Hiles and McBrady with the town, and all parties agreed that nothing in the settlement agreement construed an admission of wrongdoing or violation of law.

"I am happy that it's finally settled. I appreciate Dennis' request to get it settled rather than to keep it lingering on," said Mayor Terry Nolan.

In addition to the wrongful discharge claim, Price alleged in the Notice of Claim retaliation for exercising whistleblowing rights, breach of good faith regarding his employment contract, intentional interference with the contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Martone dismissed five of the eight claims in October 2012.

In the original Notice of Claim that precedes a formal lawsuit, Price stated that the former town manager promoted him from Administrative Assistant in the Community Development Department to Director of Community Development in July 2009 at a salary of $71,169. In July 2011, after council members conducted a "salary study," they cut his wages to $58,580, and changed his title to Town Planner, but made no changes to his job description or duties.

The whistleblowing allegation stemmed from an August 2011 incident in which Price reported Hiles to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives based on Hiles' plan to sell firearms in violation of town, state and federal laws. Price cited McBrady for working on the property that includes the Town Hall without obtaining a permit and without holding a commercial contractor's license as required by state law.

On Oct. 14, 2011, Price received a Notice of Executive Session where his employment would be considered at an Oct. 18 council meeting, and gave Price the choice of discussion in executive session or in the public meeting. Price requested a public meeting. Nevertheless, the council met in executive session without Price's presence, and reconvened in public hearing and voted 4-3 to terminate Price immediately.

The claim also alleged that the town failed to pay Price for his accrual of more than 96 hours of vacation and personal time.

The settlement agreement was based on wrongful discharge, violation of First Amendment (whistleblowers protection), and violation of Arizona Constitution - Freedom of Speech (whistleblowing).

Price was unavailable for comment at press time.

Related Stories:
• Former Dewey-Humboldt official files intent to sue
• Dewey-Humboldt residents come up empty-handed in meeting recording request
• Dewey-Humboldt: Town Council meeting turns ugly; 1 official fired, 2 resign


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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, April 27, 2013
Article comment by: Nancy Wright

Just to set the record straight, Mr. Castricone was not fired. He resigned and the Council accepted his resignation.

Posted: Saturday, March 23, 2013
Article comment by: Dave You know me

As I recall it was some of the same people that voted to fire you Art. Good decision both times.

Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Article comment by: Art Castricone

I think Dennis was kind and thoughtful to the community and the residents of Dewey-Humboldt by agreeing to settle for as little as he did.
According to the agreement, as pointed out in this article, it was clearly a wrongful discharge as well as a violation of Dennis' rights. He could have, if he wanted, cleaned our clock. As well as the community chest.
Someone remind me who voted to fire him. Bad judgement on their part. They need to be held accountable.





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