'No merit' lawsuit will cost Kingman $15K

Council decides it's cheaper than going to court

KINGMAN - Despite viewing the case as frivolous and without merit, City Council voted Tuesday to settle the lawsuit filed against Kingman by former department head Keith Adams by paying him $15,000.

"While we feel the case has no merit, and that we would prevail with a summary judgment, it is more cost effective to settle at $15,000," said City Attorney Carl Cooper. "The Council, as steward of the city's finances, must sometimes make hard calls. We estimated it would cost over $100,000 to defend the case based on information from our litigation attorney."

Adams served as the recreation superintendent for the Parks and Recreation Department for more than 20 years before retiring in April 2010. During his exit interview, Adams criticized the city's use of money and staff time, especially when it came to the golf course and a couple of other programs.

About a year after his retirement, Adams applied for a pool operator position with the city. He was not offered the position and was told in an email that it was because of his "expressed displeasure with the city as an employer and the department."

In late 2011, Adams filed suit against the city alleging a violation of first amendment rights and interference with an employment opportunity.

Settling the case rather than fighting it out in court is the better use of taxpayer dollars, said Councilwoman Erin Cochran. With the projected cost of going through litigation and the fact that even if the city won there would be no guarantee it could recoup the money, this decision had to be made, she added.

Adams originally sued for economic damages, compensatory damages, attorney's fees, pre- and post-judgment interest and costs incurred because of the case.

Outside of the $15,000 settlement, the city is not responsible for any of Adams' court costs, Cooper said.

The check is expected to be drafted later this week or early next week. The money will come out of the city's insurance fund.

Councilman Richard Anderson worked for the federal government for 36 years and he said the government - in any form - is always at risk of finding itself in a lawsuit because people see it as having deep pockets. He didn't say governments paying settlements in lawsuits they feel are without merit is a common occurrence.

"But it happens more often than it should," Anderson said.

In all his years working for the government, he can remember one occurrence where the lawsuit was so frivolous that the government had no choice but to fight it.

Though he agrees that Adams' suit is without merit, he also believes the email sent to Adams outlining why he wasn't hired was dangerous.

"If you go too far (in your explanation), it can invite problems," Anderson said. "I would've just left it at, 'We hired a person that met the requirements of the job.'"

No matter how frivolous a case seems, it must be defended and that costs money, Cooper said.

"Council made the tough choice to end it and move on," Cooper said.