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February 6 2018
Mayor and Council
RE: Status of Litigation
Tybee # 471
Dear Mayor and Council:
Over the course of the past year or so, the City has received a number of ante litem notices, all of which have been rejected. Those claims have been reported to the administrator for the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency which handles the City’s coverage for claims. So far, no new suits have been forthcoming.
There are two active items of litigation involving the City or City employees at this time. In one case, the City itself is a member of a class action as a plaintiff dealing with the online travel company’s failure to property remit hotel and motel taxes. That case has been pending for several years and the City receives distributions as a result of a settlement with certain of the online travel companies, such as Expedia, hotels.com, etc.
As has been published or addressed in the media, Chief Bryson is presently a defendant in an unusual suit brought by a former police officer, Stacy Talbert now Stacy Jungers. The suit is in the nature of an alleged wrongful termination from employment matter; however, it is cast in a fashion so as to claim that a conspiracy existed in a manner that amounts to a pattern of misconduct so as to trigger what are commonly referred to as racketeering liability theories. The case arises from the discharge of a probationary police officer which, according to the suit, was done to prevent the officer from testifying against a now deceased individual, Jay Kaminsky. The suit is intertwined with allegations against the estate of Mr. Kaminsky and former Savannah Metro Police Chief, Willie Lovett. Other allegations involve Metro officers as well. The City is defending the matter through the Interlocal Risk Management Group which has provided counsel under the coverage agreement. This is not at City expense. Attorney Rick Strickland from Brunswick is defending Chief Bryson, and it is our position that Chief Bryson has done absolutely nothing wrong and that the suit lacks merit.
There were two claims from the Firefighters Pension Fund dispute that resulted in reasonable resolutions with the cooperation of GIRMA. You will recall that these claims arose as a result of problems with reporting of necessary qualification training information to the Pension Fund and resulted in some firefighters losing credit for prior years of service. Two of these were Susan Malone and Joey Solomon and, again, with the cooperation of the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency, we were able to satisfactorily resolve those matters. There were hearings held at which some of the disputed firefighters successfully got their credit reinstated with explanations, so overall what was potentially a very problematic situation resulted in the resolution of the majority of the claims satisfactorily as to both sides in my view.
I am always reluctant in these reports to say too much as I do not want to waive the attorney-client privilege and this communication is not intended to contain any privileged information. To the extent that this communication may contain my thoughts and mental impressions, they are included only as a general description and are not intended to waive the City or Chief Bryson’s work product privileges or attorney client privileges.
Thus, given that some long running cases have concluded in the last couple of years, the City involvement in litigation is close to what maybe an all time low. I would consider this to be a good sign for the future as hopefully the trend will continue
Edward M. Hughes