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1/29/2014 6:00:00 AM
Kingman settles lawsuit for $50,000
Former employee fired for alleged biker ties; she sued
Doug McMurdo
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - The city of Kingman will pay Melissa Summerson $50,000 to settle a lawsuit related to her termination more than a year ago, purportedly over her ties to a so-called outlaw motorcycle gang.

Summerson was fired from her job in Human Resources and Risk Management more than a year ago because her husband is a member of the Desert Road Riders, a motorcycle club branded as an outlaw gang in a 2009 law enforcement report.

In court documents filed Tuesday in the United States District Court in Phoenix, the clerk of the court noted there was an offer to settle and an acceptance of that offer from Summerson in the amount of $50,000, bringing the troubling case to an end, along with potentially expensive litigation for the city.

"Melissa feels vindicated by the court's entry of a substantial judgment in her favor on her constitutional claims," said her attorney, David Kresin, in an emailed statement.

"Because Melissa was such a good employee with an outstanding record, she quickly found other employment in the human resources field and worked hard to limit the economic harm that she suffered as a result of the city's illegal conduct. Despite her successful efforts to mitigate her damages, she strongly desired to obtain a judgment holding the city liable for its actions and succeeded in that effort."

Summerson was terminated in late December 2012 after members of the city's legal and law enforcement departments expressed concerns that Summerson, as a human resources employee with access to sensitive employee information, such as their home addresses, might leak that information to members of the Desert Road Riders.

Kresin filed a federal lawsuit on Summerson's behalf last spring, alleging the city violated her constitutional freedom of association.

Summerson, who still resides in Mohave County, had an exemplary employment record with the city prior to her dismissal. The city's contract attorneys who settled the case rather than go to trial never provided any evidence Summerson did, or planned to do, anything improper.

The case was expected to go to trial later this year, but the settlement effectively brings the action to a close.

City Attorney Carl Cooper was not immediately available for comment.

Mayor Janet Watson, who seemed to be surprised to learn the city had settled the matter, said she could not speak publicly because all of the discussions regarding the lawsuit have been held in closed executive session.

"As you know, by law we can't discuss anything that's said in executive session," said Watson, who noted the lawsuit was scheduled for discussion in another closed session at Tuesday's meeting.

She agreed she might be at liberty to speak about the issue afterward.

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Related Stories:
• Dismissed for alleged 'biker ties,' former Kingman employee awarded $50,000 judgment
• Employee fired for husband's biker ties sues city of Kingman
• 'Biker' ties shouldn't have led to firing, says ex-Kingman employee

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014
Article comment by: V Stokes

"regressive Right to Work laws of the state of Arizona. "

So the requirement to join a certain group and pay fees as a condition of employment must be Progressive?

25 States and territories have right to work laws....guess they are all wrong, at least in some peoples opinions.

Posted: Monday, February 3, 2014
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

“Hey Anson, your reply is nothing more than ‘sour grapes’ just because you were wrong about Arizona being a "Right to Work" state and that Mrs. Summer won her wrongful termination lawsuit and the City of Kingman lost…”

No “sour grapes” here. I was not incorrect about Arizona being a Right to Work state – unless something has dramatically changed in the past couple of weeks. If I am mistaken please advise as to win Arizona dropped it’s right to work nonsense, what bill altered that rule and when it was signed by sad little Jan Brewer.

I have no idea who Ms Summer is. However, Mrs Summerson did not “win” anything, she settled out of court and Kingman, thusly, did not lose the case.

“I thought you democrat liberals are supposed to be looking out for the rights of the American worker? Hmm? LOL!”

Yes, we do, that is why we fight against the regressive Right to Work laws of the state of Arizona.

Posted: Sunday, February 2, 2014
Article comment by: Tea Partier!

Hey Anson, your reply is nothing more than "sour grapes" just because you were wrong about Arizona being a "Right to Work" state and that Mrs. Summer won her wrongful termination lawsuit and the City of Kingman lost, no matter how you interpret the legal wording that was read by the clerk.

I thought you democrat liberals are supposed to be looking out for the rights of the American worker? Hmm? LOL!

Posted: Sunday, February 2, 2014
Article comment by: Paradise Lost

Yes, an employer can terminate an employee for a reason or for no reason. The college has such language in the Letter of Acceptance which employees must sign if they wish to stay employed at the college. In this case, however, the City cited a reason based on fears and not facts. I am glad Melissa feels vindicated but much harm has already been done.

Posted: Saturday, February 1, 2014
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

“I just want to clarify that I did not accept a ‘settlement’.”

So the clerk of the court lied? “… the clerk of the court noted there was an offer to settle and an acceptance of that offer from Summerson…”

Got it.

BTW, in a court of law the acceptance of a settlement results in a judgment being handed down by the court.

Yes, Melissa, you did settle.

Posted: Saturday, February 1, 2014
Article comment by: Melissa Summerson

I just want to clarify that I did not accept a "settlement". I declined the settlement offer. What I accepted was an offer of "judgment" against the City of Kingman for the specified damages. I didn't see any reason to invest any more time and money to take this all the way to a jury to obtain the same judgment just to get more money in damages. I accomplished what I set out to do. An order of judgment against the City of Kingman has been file with the court.

Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014
Article comment by: Of course a one up ya

Why am I not surprised to see our local done everything, been everywhere, knows all that can be known, while sitting at Gods right hand would post saying they might be entitled to the same type of judgement.

LOL...Never a dull moment here in Fantasy land.

Oh....I think Ms Summerson should have went to trial and exposed every single tid bit of dirt to be dug up and those responsible held accountible. She should have asked for a couple million to boot.

She made her decision...and the city should Kiss her and RUN RUN the next stupid mistake their going to make or have made.

Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014
Article comment by: The Realist

Let's look at this from the outside in with a brain, shall we? Assuming Melissa earned about 60k + 30% benefits per year, she would earn somewhere around 75k a year income with the city. What she won was 2/3 year income settlement via the lawsuit. What did her lawyers take for over one year's worth of legal work (at least $300 an hour)? Probably all of it. This would explain the statement of vindication from her lawyers, and not from her. Her lawyers likely urged her to settle if that was the case, knowing that she was going to likely lose. Who wins here? The city. This is the cost of doing business, as most business models and budgets are rightly funded with. So, you taxpayers... You should be thanking the city for not carrying this on, and likely chalking the cost of this termination as a cost of doing business in advance of it happening. Plus, don't forget that Salem and Kramer were in charge at the time.

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Article comment by: TWO WORDS

@ bob fisk. Iron Brotherhood you shouldn't have to google them. How can leo be in a gang that meets the very critiera of OMG! Is that a security risk to the people when thay are found guilty of beating on a bar patron in Prescott!

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Article comment by: Craig White

As a 34 year employee of a municipality in So. Cal, the city I worked for also found themselves in court a few times for the same type issues along the lines of this case. Based on the settlements my old employer paid out (all were over $100K), the City of Kingman came out relatively well in this case.

As the local Chapter President of the "Wind & Fire" motorcycle club ( an all firefighter motorcycle club ), I watched this case with great interest. I started my chapter here after this case had already came to life. I had spoken to several KFD members about joining my club, but all I heard back were the sounds of crickets......clearly, they were afraid of finding themselves in the same situation as Mrs. Summerson. For ALL parties involved, I am glad to see this case done and over. I also hope that the settlement of this case will maybe ease some fears and allow those KFD members who did show some interest in joining my club to do so .

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Article comment by: The Fox Hound

The only reason the city attorney doesn't get fired has to be cronyism. This was unforgivable and goes against the very fiber of personal rights and what FREEDOM really means. Some one in local Government needs to say who was at fault here and what is the personal responsibility going to cost them.

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Article comment by: oggie 911

right on... Melissa ,,,,,,, Larry & Cynthia

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Article comment by: See The Light

Dear Independent Voter. There are errors and then there is simply bad behavior. This firing was not an error. It was malfeasance. The people responsible should be held accountable.

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Article comment by: tj denton

bobber... can not fire someone for no reason after they have completed a probationary period. right to work has nothing to do with firings. again, you must be confused with pre-1947. thats why the city settled, because they knew they were in the wrong. how were they in the wrong you may ask?? BY FIRING SOMEONE FOR NO REASON! so again, do some research on the subject and come back with some "imperical evidence", as you like to say, that proves that right to work means you can fire someone for no reason at all.

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Article comment by: just saying

I doubt if the city paid anything because of liability insurance. they probably settled for the limit that the insurance paid. in my opinion if she had a good case she should have pushed it to the limit.

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Article comment by: Tea Partier!

To Independent Voter, or are your really a City of Kingman Council Member?

Thank you for reading my comments and choosing to only respond to me, which you must have felt was very nescessary for some reason.

I hope you will have some spare time to reply to all of the other similar comments who are tax paying citizens who work hard in the private sector to pay Government workers salaries and perks, and who will also remember this corrupt and embarrassing incident in the next election.

I also hope the City of Kingman will appoint you to anonymously explain why they chose to settle out of court for $50,000 for wrongful termination. LOL! I too wish this had gone to court and that the City had to pay her a six figure sum.

Please focus your reply on that and spare me the dedication nonsense of the Mayor and the other Council Members. I get it!

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Article comment by: Dave In Golden Valley

Somebody better look at the legal advice given before the firing. Surely the CM and HR HAD to consult with the Attorney prior to the firing. Did he say "go ahead" or "we don't have to inform the Council". If so they need a new attorney.

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Article comment by: Independant Voter

Dear Tea Party person, its disappointing to read your position about our elected or appointed public officials when you describe them as incompetent, lacking of integrity and corrupt. These positions in our local government demand a great deal of a persons heart and soul. They give of themselves to our community doing the best job they can each day. They are not perfect and neither are you. This is our system of government and it has stood the test of modern time. I put a challenge to you! Apply to one of the commissions. Devote your time, your heart and soul to the duties. Lets see if you can make a difference. Its hard work on top of your day job. I'm an independent voter and I like those in office that bring experience to the board. Just makes better since to me to have someone like Ms. Watson with her past experience and time served on our board. As far as the good old boys goes. I would much rather see local good boys with success than outsiders just here to make a buck and then leave with the cash. There's a balance in these matters. Our good old boys spend money here and reinvest here. I've seen it in action its good. Period.

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Article comment by: someone in Arizona

@sigh of relief "City of Kingman not county.

Maybe the "City" should see how much Jackie is actually helping to save money. This is the kind of high level management that is employed by the city of kingman? Maybe she should be terminated for here incompetence and corrupt behavior.

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Article comment by: Chicken Dancer

the mayor and council AND new manager needs to step up and take some responsibility for this by looking hard at the HR dept and dept head and how much $$$$$ it has cost the taxpayers over the past few years and several other personel related lawsuits the
city has paid for, settled or lost....I bet its a huge amount all because of one dept head.

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Article comment by: Vincent Vega

WOW.......the City should thank their lucky stars on this one!!!. This could have (and should have) been a six figure settlement.

The saddest part? The City (unless the reporter failed to mention it) was not told to stop harassing it's employees. What if someone from the water department, refuse department, fire department, public works department, anyone employed by the city goes out, purchases a motorcycle and wanted to join a motorcycle club....any motorcycle club. Will they still be subjected to threats of termination?

My money is on.............YES !!!!!!!

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Article comment by: Sharon L

Good for her!! The city got off cheap. Hope they learn a lesson here. So when you get a job now, are they going to scrutinize every member in your family now? Do they get a background check too? I guess my crazy uncle Larry will disqualify me for a government job for his 1960's anti government activities. lol.

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Article comment by: taxpayers benefit

If I thought I could win with the City I would not have settled. I would have gone for punitive damages in high figures. I think it was a way to pay lawyer fees and avoid further costs that would have come out of her pocket. City was smart knew they could win and made an offer that they really benefitted from even if they have egg on their face. Thank you for not going to court and spending more of my tax money just to prove a point.

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Article comment by: anonymous anonymous

Looks like more republican leadership is benefiting those whom they violate their rights and they hand the bill to the voters, citizens!
Bet if the folks who made this unconstitutional firing had to pay personal damages this would disappear over night as a standard policy!

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Article comment by: pl .....'re close. There are officials here who definitely should be subjected to being deposed (under oath). Then the real story here would come out. But don't worry - I'm not going away until it does, one way or the other.

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