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City of Oak Harbor asks court to toss fired chief’s suit

An attorney representing the city of Oak Harbor is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit from the former police chief.

The city’s attorney filed the motion for summary judgment in Island County Superior Court May 3.

The hearing on the motion is set for July 2.

Rick Wallace, the former police chief, filed a lawsuit against the city last year, claiming wrongful termination and breach of contract.

Mayor Scott Dudley fired Wallace last June after he refused to retire.

Dudley, who campaigned for mayor as a reformer, fired a series of people in administrative positions after entering office last year.

Dudley asked Wallace to retire in June, and initially Wallace agreed.

Later, he revoked his agreement to retire in a letter that his attorney, Chris Skinner of Oak Harbor, sent to the city.

Skinner claimed Wallace, who didn’t have a contract, was a for-cause employee, which means the chief couldn’t be fired or forced to retire without cause.

Oak Harbor City Council members who were critical of what they considered the mayor’s firing spree proposed a measure that would specifically name Wallace as a for-cause employee.

They hoped that designation would protect him from the mayor.

Dudley, however, fired Wallace days before the council was set to vote on the proposal.

Wallace filed a claim for damages almost immediately.

An adjuster at the city’s insurance pool denied the claim, concluding that Wallace served at the discretion of the mayor.

Wallace filed a lawsuit this past fall.

In the recent motion, the city’s attorney argued that there are no material factual disputes and that Wallace was an “at will” employee who could be fired for any reason.

Skinner said he disagrees and will file opposing material.

 

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