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Judge rules in city’s favor

Updated December 11, 2020 - 9:27 am

A District Court judge has dismissed claims against city officials but has yet to rule on two former employees’ claims of alleged breach of contract.

On Monday, Dec. 7, Nevada Eighth District Court Judge Jim Crockett granted a motion filed by Bailey Kennedy, the firm representing the city, dismissing claims made by former City Attorney Steve Morris and former City Manager Al Noyola of intentional interference with their employment contracts and civil conspiracy by Mayor Kiernan McManus and Councilwoman Tracy Folda.

Acting City Attorney Brittany Walker said the motion determined that Morris and Noyola’s claims “constituted” a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation and they had not shown a likelihood that they could prove they were true.

“This means that all of the claims initially brought by plaintiffs in their first amended complaint have now been dismissed, and the city is entitled by law to seek a monetary award against plaintiffs for reasonable costs and attorney fees incurred in defending the action,” she wrote in an emailed statement.

According to McManus, the city will be pursuing the reimbursement of legal costs from this case.

In his minute order, Crockett wrote that Morris and Noyola “contend, rather incredulously, that Defendants Special Anti-SLAPP … is vexatious and frivolous.”

Crockett wrote that the court came to the “opposite conclusion” and that the “special motion to dismiss is appropriate, well-grounded in law and fact and meritorious in all pertinent respects.”

He also denied Morris and Noyola’s request to have the city pay their attorney and legal fees.

“We obviously disagree with the judges’ ruling,” said Morris’ attorney Richard Gordon.

He said the ruling, however, was not a surprise because of Crockett’s previous decision to dismiss the other claims in the first amended complaint.

An attorney for Noyola did not respond to requests for comments on this decision.

Morris and Noyola filed their complaint Aug. 3 in District Court, alleging a special meeting scheduled for Aug. 6 to discuss terminating their employment contracts was because they substantiated allegations against McManus, who has been accused by city employees of “religious discrimination, harassment, bullying and creating a hostile work environment.”

On Aug. 25, they filed an amended complaint accusing the mayor and City Council of several open meeting law violations. All those claims have now been dismissed.

Crockett has yet to rule on a second amended complaint filed Nov. 18 by Morris and Noyola accusing the city of violating their contracts and state law by not yet paying them their severance packages.

“It’s like starting the complaint over … . There are a lot of new and significant claims in the second amended complaint that the court will have to weigh in on eventually,” said Gordon.

Morris and Noyola say their employment contracts were breached because they were fired within six months before a City Council election. Both contracts say they cannot be let go six months before or six months after one.

The next council election is the April 6 primary, less than six months after Oct. 13, when they were fired.

“The city will continue to vigorously defend itself and its elected officials against these claims asserted by Mr. Morris and Mr. Noyola in the second amended complaint,” said Walker in an emailed statement.

A hearing for this complaint has yet to be set.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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