Pitkin County to pay $65,000 to former HR director in lawsuit settlement
The Aspen Times
Pitkin County has agreed to pay $65,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit with a former human resources director, the county manager said Wednesday.
“Based on the cost to taxpayers to try this case versus settling it, we’ve decided to settle it,” County Manager Jon Peacock said.
The county’s insurance carrier will pay a portion of the settlement, he said.
In a related development Wednesday, attorneys for both the county and plaintiff Stephen C. Pingree filed a stipulation for dismissal Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of Denver. Both sides have agreed to pay their own attorneys fees and costs, the document shows.
The dismissal comes after Pingree filed a discrimination and retaliation suit in February against the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners, Peacock, Assistant County Manager Phylis Mattice and Human Resources Director Dannette Logan. Mattice was dismissed from the case in March.
A settlement discussion was held July 25, “and although no settlement has been reached as to any claims in this action, the court will continue to assist the parties toward settlement,” according to court minutes.
Pingree’s suit accused the county of firing him in March 2013, because he called out government officials for not promoting a part-time employee to full-time status. The woman was morbidly obese, and the county stalled giving her full-time benefits until six weeks after he complained, the suit says. Four months after the employee became full time, she died and was not eligible for life-insurance benefits because she hadn’t been a permanent county employee for six months, the suit said.
Pingree also claimed that in spite of favorable job reviews, the county reprimanded him for taking off from work for medical issues that included tending to sick relatives.
The county countered in court filings that it didn’t retaliate against him. Rather, he was fired “due to a reduction in force.”
The county also contended Pingree was an at-will employee, meaning he could be fired at any time.
Pingree was the county’s senior human resources director for five years. His attorney, Thomas J. Arckey of Arckey & Associates in Centennial, did not return a phone message Wednesday.
Tenants at the city’s oldest deed-restricted housing complex, Centennial Apartments, faced rent hikes as high as 30% in January that sent city, county, and APCHA officials into closed-door meetings with the relatively new landlord, Birge & Held.