Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

TOP STORY>> City council wont' settle with official

IN SHORT: Clerk-treasurer’s discrimination lawsuit against Cabot goes to trial in July.

Leader staff writer

A federal lawsuit filed by the clerk-treasurer against the city of Cabot and the mayor more than a year ago will continue for trial in July as scheduled. The council voted Monday night to turn down an offer to settle out of court.

Clerk-Treasurer Marva Verkler claims in her suit that she was discriminated against because she is a woman and because she supported former Mayor Joe Allman in the last mayoral race.

She wants the court to return the duties taken from her at the urging of Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh, including her bookkeeping and check writing duties.

Those duties and most of Verkler’s staff were reassigned to Dale Walker, who was hired as the city’s first finance director after Stumbaugh took office in 2003.

Alderman David Polantz, who chairs the city’s finance committee and keeps a close eye on the budget, sponsored the resolution to settle the suit with the provision that the city admit no wrongdoing.

Polantz told the council he wanted to settle for financial reasons. Verkler is suing for an unspecified amount, but she was willing to settle for $25,000 and the promise that she will retire at the end of 2006.

The 2005 budget contains $10,000 to cover the cost of depositions in the case and that amount might not be enough he said. So $25,000, split into two payments of $12,500, would almost certainly be in the city’s best interest.

Alderman Patrick Hutton spoke against the resolution saying the suit implied that he (as well as the other council members) is guilty of wrongdoing and he would rather be vindicated in court than settle.

He didn’t want to be held at fault when he did nothing wrong, Hutton told Polantz.
“The problem is, Patrick, we always lose,” Polantz said.

“This one, we just might win,” Hutton countered.

The resolution was voted down 4-3, with one abstention. Polantz, Alderman Bob Duke and Alder-man Tom Armstrong voted to settle. Aldermen Hutton, James Glenn, Eddie Cook and Jerry Stephens voted against the settlement.

Alderman Odis Waymack, who actually favored settling out of court, abstained, saying he did so because some city officials had implied that he was helping Verkler with the suit.

Contacted Tuesday, Verkler said she is ready for the suit to end and that she is disappointed with the council’s decision. She would not comment on whether she will seek re-election.

Although the council stripped her of most of her duties, her salary was not decreased, and she is paid more than Walker, $44,462 compared to his $38,422 salary.