Sizemore strikes back with suit
The former city administrator sues the city seeking his job back plus $1.7 millionNews Editor
Former Madras City Administrator Bill Sizemore opened a new chapter in a controversy that seemed all but over by filing a lawsuit against the city and several of its current and former officials in U.S. District Court Thursday, claiming defamation, unlawful termination and other charges in connection with his firing last year.
Sizemore is suing Mayor Rick Allen, former city attorney Martin E. Hansen, plus four current and one former city councilors on an array of claims that add up to $1.7 million in monetary damages.
"He is suing for reinstatement to his job plus his lost wages or the severance he was contractually entitled to," said Roger Hennagin, a Portland attorney representing Sizemore. "He also has claims for violation of his constitutional rights in connection with his termination."
Sizemore's was fired on Feb. 13, 2001 following months of controversy that erupted when it was revealed he had a prior criminal record and had served 27 months in prison for embezzling $430,628 from the Oregon Community Foundation in 1986.
The controversy led to the recall of two city councilors, Lloyd Hindeman and Wayne Schjoll, last January and the defeat of former Mayor Marjean Whitehouse by Allen, who won overwhelmingly as a write-in candidate during the 2000 mayoral election. Whitehouse, Schjoll and Hindeman were accused of knowing about Sizemore's criminal record but concealing it from the other city councilors when the former city administrator was hired in August 2000.
Sizemore was denied severance pay upon termination by city officials who cited several reasons for "cause" as defined in the former city administrator's employment contract. Sizemore was accused fraudulently altering the terms of his contract, among other allegations.
"They created false allegations in order to attempt to satisfy the cause requirement in the contract to avoid paying him the severance package the contract called for," said Hennagin.
Current city councilors Dave Allison, Frank Morton, Bob Sjolund and Melanie Widmer are named in the lawsuit along with former councilor Keith Johnson, who eventually resigned after moving beyond the Madras city limits.
The 11-page brief filed by Hennagin details five claims for relief:
- Sizemore alleges he was denied his right to due process of law by Allen, Allison, Johnson, Morton, Sjolund and Widmer. Furthermore, the claim says was "arbitrarily and capriciously" discharged by the defendants whose conduct was "willful and malicious."
- The suit alleges that Allen, Allison, Johnson, Morton, Sjolund and Widmer conspired with each other and with attorney Hansen to deny Sizemore his constitutional rights.
- The suit seeks $1 million for alleged defamation in that "Allen's and Hansen's allegations that Sizemore defrauded the City of Madras, lied to the City of Madras, maligned the professionalism of city administrators and over-reached his authority, and each republication of those allegations, held Sizemore up to public ridicule, hatred, and opprobrium."
- Sizemore alleges Allen and Hansen intentionally inflicted emotional distress worth a noneconomic sum of $750,000.
- The suit alleges breach of contract.
Allen said the city had not been served the lawsuit.
"It doesn't surprise me," he said. "It's been a year but I expected it would come at some point. When he left he said he would do it."
Madras City Attorney Jennifer Allen said it was too early to comment on the lawsuit before it was served.
"We haven't been contacted for our advice or for representation and depending on the insurance coverage we may not represent the city," she said.
The lawsuit indicates that Sizemore now lives in California. Hennagin said he did not know of the exact city or location where Sizemore resides.