Parties involved in a lawsuit concerning the contracts of terminated county employees were back in court Wednesday.

Parties involved in a lawsuit concerning the contracts of terminated county employees were back in court Wednesday.

The judge presiding over the case listened to attorneys' arguments regarding motions that had been filed.

Judge Edward Bouker declined to halt the discovery process, in which parties exchange evidence. Bouker said he will issue a ruling in writing regarding a request to include additional parties in the case.

The case was filed last year on behalf of the Leavenworth County Commission to challenge the contracts of four employees.

The petition for the declaratory judgment named Human Resources Director Tamara Copeland, County Counselor Mollie Hill, Deputy County Counselor Andrea Hughes and Road and Bridge Superintendent Vincent Grier as defendants in the case.

Grier has since been dismissed from the lawsuit.

Copeland, Hill and Hughes, who have filed counterclaims in the case, were terminated by the County Commission several months after the lawsuit was filed. Hill has since been hired to work for the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office.

The contracts of Copeland, Hill and Hughes were approved by the County Commission in 2016.

Copeland was given a five-year contract. The other contracts were approved for three years.

The contracts called for the employees to continue to be paid their salaries for the remainder of their contract periods after being terminated.

But after Copeland, Hill and Hughes were terminated in October, the County Commission stopped paying the former employees.

The lawsuit was filed after the makeup of the County Commission changed in 2017 as Doug Smith replaced Dennis Bixby as the commissioner from the county's 3rd District.

The petition for a declaratory judgement argues the former County Commission’s approval of the contracts “was an attempt to bind successors in matters that are fundamental to the administration of county government and usurp the authority of the present Board of County Commissioners.”

The petition also argues the contracts created “an indebtedness by Board of County Commissioners for funds which are not yet in the budget and would violate the Kansas Cash Basis Law and the Kansas Budget Law.”

Bouker is a senior judge for the state of Kansas. He was assigned to the case after local District Judge David King recused himself.

Ahead of Wednesday's hearing, Scott Ryburn, an attorney representing the County Commission, filed a motion seeking separate trials for the petition for a declaratory judgement and the counterclaims filed by the defendants.

Attorneys for Hughes and Copeland filed motions seeking to add County Treasurer Janice Van Parys and her husband, County Counselor David Van Parys, as defendants to counterclaims.

Motions filed by the attorneys allege that Janice and David Van Parys conspired with Smith and Commissioner Louis Klemp to interfere with the contractual relationships between Hughes and Copeland and the County Commission. A motion filed by Hughes' attorney only cites Janice Van Parys. But a motion filed by Copeland's attorney cited both Janice and David Van Parys.

Ryburn also filed a motion seeking to stop the inclusion of Janice and David Van Parys in the lawsuit and to halt the discovery.

Arguing in court Wednesday, Ryburn said an alleged conspiracy between Janice and David Van Parys and the County Commissions is a separate issue from the existing lawsuit.

“They should not be joined as defendants in this case,” he said.

Ryburn said adding a claim against David and Janice Van Parys probably would double the amount of discovery evidence in the case.

Bouker also heard arguments from attorneys for Hughes, Copeland and Hill.

At one point, Gregory Robinson, an attorney for Copeland, argued that the County Commission's approval in December of a 14-month contract for County Administrator Mark Loughry violates the legal premise of the county's arguments in the lawsuit.

Bouker said he was not prepared Wednesday to rule on the issue of adding Janice and David Van Parys as third-party defendants. The judge said he will issue his decision in writing.

Bouker also said he did not see an immediate need to stay, or halt, the discovery process.

During a hearing in October, Bouker ordered that other parties who have been given contracts with the county be sent summonses to give them the opportunity to participate in the lawsuit as defendants.

Bouker agreed to dismiss several of these other defendants from the case Wednesday at the request of their attorneys.

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