Hyde Park City officials were put on notice Wednesday that a federal lawsuit will likely be filed within the next 60 days seeking civil remedies for two men who say they were forced out of their jobs after their supervisor pointed a gun at them on the job.
Kolby Christiansen and Justin Bodrero filed a formal grievance with the city in March in an effort to get the council to rescind its March 4 decision allowing Grunig to return to work. The grievance also asks the city to conduct a proper appellate hearing while abiding by all applicable laws, with a complete and competent review of all of the evidence, without nepotism or irrelevant witnesses that may improperly bolster Grunig’s case.
After two months of trying to reach an agreement with the city, attorney Erin Byington said the only recourse available to her clients is to move forward with a lawsuit, and late Wednesday afternoon, her office provided Hyde Park with the prerequisite notice of claim.
“We’re still open to settlement — we have a 60-day window between Wednesday and when we file a suit,” she said. “We remain open to discussion, and we remain open to settlement because the city has been through enough, really — but we cannot get them to come to the table.”
Christiansen and Bodrero say they were forced into leaving their positions after they say the city failed to adequately sanction Grunig for pointing a gun at them during a Nov. 18 staff meeting — an incident they did not report for several weeks because they believed Grunig would make their lives difficult if they did.
“The seriousness and impact of a department head pointing the handgun and laser sight upon all of his subordinates should be obvious,” the notice of claim states.
The notice continues by outlining Mayor Sharidean Flint’s initial action, which included suspension and demotion, along with the resulting cut to his pay. Grunig appealed, and the City Council reinstated him March 4.
“Mayor Flint sanctions imposed on Grunig seem light, but lay within the realm of appropriate action. Had the council not overruled her, her sanctions might have cut off many of the complainants’ causes of actions against the city, and any desire they had to pursue them,” the notice of claim states. “Instead, the city council undermined their mayor in favor of Grunig.”
In the notice, Byington has laid out several civil allegations against the city, including assault, due process violations, constructive discharge from employment, termination in violation of public policy, and breach of contract.
Christiansen and Bodrero could gain up to $260,000 in damages each if they win the case on all causes of action.
“The city must defend the council’s decision that pointing a gun at three people is safe, albeit offensive behavior, and that fully reinstating the same supervisor over the complainants was appropriate, that having family on the council deciding Grunig’s professional future was a waiverable conflict, that the impact on victims was no big deal and they should go back to work under Grunig with no further oversight or protections,” Byington stated in the notice of claim.
The notice was delivered to the city on Wednesday, just hours before a nominating committee effectively dismantled the existing council by nominating six new members to the council.