7 Investigates: Who pays when a government agency loses a lawsuit?

Who pays for big settlements against cities?

BOISE -- The city of Nampa recently settled a wrongful termination case, paying out $750,000.

KTVB talked with Doug Strosnider about the agreement, and his reaction to it.

7 Investigates wanted to know who pays for big settlements like that, and what's the process behind it.

Idaho Counties Risk Management Program handles the insurance for nearly 1,000 local government agencies throughout the state.

Executive Director Rick Ferguson says ICRMP was founded in the 1980s and provides a premium pool for cities, counties and schools.

"I think we have a very stable claims environment in this state, large settlements are out of the norm," said Ferguson.

But Ferguson admits, they do happen.

This September, the city of Nampa settled with former deputy fire chief Doug Strosnider for $750,000 over a wrongful termination. Ferguson couldn't talk about the specific case.

But, he says 80 percent of employment-related claims are dismissed. He says occasionally claims like Strosnider's have enough evidence to move forward in court.

"If it's clear a mistake has been made and accident has happened, we want to resolve that matter quickly and our staff are trained to work with the public to quickly address any accidents in which liability is clear," said Ferguson.

Ferguson says with employment tort claims, federal law often plays a role. He also says they usually try to avoid a lengthy and costly trial when appropriate.

"Sometimes a settlement that contemplates all those costs and the details of the conflict, it makes sense for the city, employee, and all those involved to settle and those numbers can be quite high on occasion," said Ferguson.

So when cities like Nampa settle for $750,000 are taxpayers footing the big bill? Ferguson says not necessarily since their rates reflect severity and frequency.

"One individual claim may not make a big difference, a series of large claims will make a difference," said Ferguson.

So we wanted to know if other big settlements could be coming in Nampa.

Through a public records request, we learned that from 2014 through 2015, five employment-related tort claims were filed against the mayor and city, including Strosnider's. One other was settled for $85,000, two were dismissed, and one is still pending, according to the city.

In comparison, one was filed against the city of Meridian and one was filed against the city of Boise over the same period.

We asked Nampa Mayor Bob Henry, who has been in office since 2014, to respond. He denied us an interview, but sent us the following statement.

“When an entity has more than 600 full-time and part-time employees, it’s understandable that some employees may take legal action to resolve differences. But it’s important to remember that not every tort claim filed results in a judgment against the city. We work very closely with ICRMP and our attorney on all employment matters.” -Mayor Bob Henry

We requested the ICRMP premium for Nampa over the last few years. The rate has gone down about $15,000 since 2013.

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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