Tuesday, October 6, 2015

County shells out $120K for Maketa claims

Posted By on Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 11:55 AM

Sallie Clark: settlements are "unfortunate." - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sallie Clark: settlements are "unfortunate."
The Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved settling two cases today by paying $120,000 in taxpayer money to two people who had made claims against the county alleging missteps by former Sheriff Terry Maketa.

It's odd the county would settle with Wendy Habert, considering she most recently worked for the jail medical contractor, not the county. She was Maketa's campaign manager in 2010 when he sought a third term and was elected by a landslide, despite the Independent's report ("Star Treatment," March 11, 2010) about favoritism and his questionable relationships with some female employees.

In any event, Habert gets $55,000 and her lawyer, $30,000.

Cliff Porter, who alleged he suffered retaliation for "political association," according to County Attorney Amy Folsom, gets $17,500 and his lawyer a like amount.

Neither of these cases made it to the lawsuit stage. Both, Folsom told commissioners at today's meeting, were merely demands submitted to the county. Demand letters aren't considered public documents because they're the subject of negotiation, she said.

"We engage in a very rigorous process before we settle a claim," Folsom said. She added the county, though, conducts what she called a "substantive risk assessment" prior to settling a case and determine "how to assess how this individual can be compensated fairly."

As for settling a claim ahead of actual litigation, Folsom said, "Litigation is very expensive. We’re talking about extra fees and costs. It is a great thing when you can bring things to resolution in advance of cost of litigation."

Commissioner Sallie Clark, long a political ally of Maketa's who endorsed him in 2010, called the settlements "an unfortunate situation," and added, "but we want to make it right to the folks that felt there was something wrong here."

Commissioner Amy Lathen said the settlements represented a "delicate balance."

"We have to protect our staff and recognize things that have happened," she said. It's an odd statement to refer to Habert as "staff" when it's our understanding she most recently was employed by a county contractor and hasn't worked for the sheriff's office for years.

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