An attorney for a former Leavenworth County human resources director has filed a response to a motion in a lawsuit that seeks to have the former county employee's contract declared void.
An attorney for a former Leavenworth County human resources director has filed a response to a motion in a lawsuit that seeks to have the former county employee’s contract declared void.
At issue is the five-year contract of former Human Resources Director Tamara Copeland, who was terminated from her position with the county last October. The contract has been challenged in a lawsuit that was filed last year on behalf of the Leavenworth County Commission.
In August, Scott Ryburn, an attorney representing the County Commission, filed a motion for a summary judgment. The motion asks the judge in the case to rule that Copeland’s contract is void. The motion also seeks the dismissal of counterclaims filed by Copeland.
Copeland’s contract was approved in 2016.
The lawsuit, which was filed after a change in the makeup of the commission, initially challenged the contracts of Copeland, County Counselor Mollie Hill, Deputy County Counselor Andrea Hughes and Road and Bridge Superintendent Vincent Grier.
Grier later was dismissed from the lawsuit.
Hill and Hughes also were terminated from their positions. Hill has since been hired to work for the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office.
In May, the County Commission reached settlements with Hill and Hughes.
Senior Judge Edward Bouker already has ruled against severance provisions in Copeland’s contract. In his July ruling, Bouker found that the severance provisions extended beyond the term of the County Commission that approved the contract and were an “attempt to improperly bind successor boards in matters incident to their own administration and responsibility.” Bouker ruled the provisions were contrary to public interest.
In a written response to the latest motion for summary judgment, Copeland’s attorney, Gregory Robinson, argued that Copeland’s contract was not an attempt to bind future commissioners. Robinson also argues his client’s contract is reasonably necessary to the protection of “public property, interests and affairs in Leavenworth County.”
“The intent of the Board when it entered into Copeland’s agreement was to protect the interests of the county,” Robinson wrote.
Robinson argued that Commissioner Bob Holland has credited Copeland with saving the county hundreds of thousands of dollars through the development and implementation of a county pay plan.
Robinson argued that Holland also has credited Copeland as being instrumental in identifying payroll fraud.
“It is certainly a public interest to save taxpayers money and get rid of corruption, fraud, and illegality within Leavenworth County,” Robinson wrote.
Of the two commissioners who voted to approve Copeland’s contract, Holland is the only one who remains on the County Commission. Even though the lawsuit was filed on behalf of the commission, Holland has been critical of the legal action.
Robinson stated that Copeland’s contract includes a severability clause, which keeps the remaining terms of the agreement in effect even though one provision has been determined to be invalid.
Robinson acknowledged Bouker previously ruled on whether the contract extends beyond the term of the commission that approved the agreement. But the attorney has asked Bouker to reconsider his ruling in the context of the full summary judgment motion.