The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local News

October 1, 2010

Assessor candidate has two suits against city

ANDERSON, Ind. — A candidate for Madison County assessor is continuing his lawsuit against the city that claims he was unjustly fired as manager of Anderson’s animal shelter when Mayor Kris Ockomon took office.

Larry Davis, a former Democrat who is running as a Republican in the November assessor race, has two active suits against Ockomon and the city:

u A federal suit claiming his 2008 firing was politically motivated. A federal circuit court found in favor of the city in December 2009, but Davis has appealed.

u A case in Madison County Superior Court 2 claims Davis is owed about $18,500 in back wages and penalties, plus legal fees.

According to records reviewed by The Herald Bulletin, the city has paid at least $47,828 to the Indianapolis legal firm of Fillenwarth, Dennerline, Groth & Towe to defend against the federal suit. That includes claims in the case through February 2010 that were produced in response to Freedom of Information Act requests for records.

City attorney Tim Lanane said he is defending the wage suit at no additional cost to the city.

“His last demand was over $400,000” in the federal suit, Lanane said of Davis. “That was his last demand preliminary to the court entering summary judgment” in favor of the city.

“There was a lot at stake in this case,” he said. “The demands of Mr. Davis have been considerable.”

Lanane said the city’s defense is that Davis’ position was one in which an appointee served at the pleasure of the mayor.

“That’s what the court ruled,” he said. “He was an appointee for which political affiliation was a reasonable consideration.”

Davis’ attorney, Michael Sutherlin of Indianapolis, said Davis served under Democratic and Republican mayors, and that the federal suit alleges the firing was politically motivated because Davis did not support Ockomon’s mayoral candidacy.

“We think the trial court is wrong,” Sutherlin said of Davis’ appeal. He said the suit argues that Davis’ position was one that is not subject to political appointment.

Sutherlin said Davis continues to pursue the case on First Amendment and other grounds. He criticized Ockomon’s initial appointees to replace Davis as unqualified and “just somebody he wanted to fulfill a campaign promise and give a job to.”

Sutherlin said he had advised Davis not to comment for this story.

Ockomon on Friday said it was Davis’ suits that were politically motivated. “It has that appearance, in my opinion,” Ockomon said.

“We’ve already won the case,” Ockomon said. “I think it’s kind of outrageous they continue to appeal it.”

Separately, Davis was sued in August by the Madison County Federal Credit Union. The suit claims Davis failed to repay a 1999 loan and seeks $7,873 plus interest in damages.

Contact Dave Stafford: 648-4250, dave.stafford@heraldbulletin.com

 

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