City of Spokane to pay for punitive damages in Mehring wrongful termination



Posted on November 14, 2011 at 5:03 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 14 at 7:14 PM

SPOKANE—A jury ruled against Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick in a wrongful termination lawsuit, and the city will be paying the $250,000 dollar bill in punitive damages against Kirkpatrick.

The Spokane City Council decided to indemnify Chief Kirkpatrick back in June, meaning she is not liable for any of the costs for attorneys or the punitive damages if she loses the trial.

Kirkpatrick lost the trial, and now the city is going to foot the bill.

Bob Dunn represented Jay Mehring, a Spokane Police Officer who sued for wrongful termination and won.  Chief Kirkpatrick fired Mehring back in 2007 for alleged domestic violence.

City Spokesperson Marlene Feist says the city council stood behind Chief Kirkpatrick when Mehring filed the civil suit that named the city of Spokane and Chief Kirkpatrick individually.

“We asked the chief to be tougher with discipline and to take the actions she felt were necessary to keep her department moving forward,” Feist said.

The resolution that indemnified Kirkpatrick essentially does not hold her personally liable.

The jury awarded Mehring for economic damages, emotional distress and the $250,000 dollars in punitive damages, which comes to about $700,000 dollars.

Dunn points to the city code explaining the scope of indemnification.  Specifically, the city does not indemnify an agent against claims, based upon intentionally wrongful or criminal acts.

Dunn says the ruling shows Kirkpatrick’s actions were intentional.

Feist would only say that Chief Kirkpatrick was acting within the scope of her job.

$700,000 dollars is only part of the total the city will have to pay.  Dunn says he will file his attorney’s fees, which he says will be around $600,000 dollars.  In total, the Mehring case will cost the city around $1.3 million dollars. 

City leaders say they may appeal.