Councilmember Files Claim Against City, Council, City Employees
Nov 16, 2015 11:51AM
By Taylor Stevens
By Taylor StevensWest Jordan -
West Jordan is soon to be enwrapped in yet another lawsuit by one of its own, the latest episode from a saga of infighting and political contention at City Hall.
Councilmember Jeff Haaga filed a notice of claim of his lawsuit on Nov. 4. That same night, he stepped down from the dais, addressed the council as a resident, and served each of the elected officials—excluding Mayor Kim Rolfe—their notice of the lawsuit pending against them.
“Really all I need to do is approach the dais—with your permission, Mayor—and give councilmembers and some staff members a document,” Haaga said during public comment as the assembled residents exchanged confused glances.
Those on the dais seemed just as puzzled.
“Not sure what just happened there, but that was highly irregular,” said Councilmember Ben Southworth uncomfortably.
The councilmembers then each stated publicly their refusal to accept the document notice Haaga had put in front of them.
Haaga is suing the parties for $750,000 in damages, although he said he believes actual damages incurred to exceed that number. According to the notice of claim document, these damages include loss of physical and emotional health and income.
The nature of his claims includes violation of civil rights, conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, abuse of the judicial system and violation of the first amendment, among others.
In the notice of claim, Haaga joined dozens of other voices in past months in alleging the contentious culture at City Hall, writing, “The parties, individually and/or in concert with one another, acted maliciously against me in an effort to dissuade me from my actions in fulfilling my duties as a West Jordan City Council Member.”
He said the environment had created an “Inability to perform my elected official duties because of fear of retaliation causing great emotional and physical issue” and had also led to his hospitalization in September 2014.
Along with alleging personal damages—such as inability to make a living publishing a community magazine due to the actions of one of the parties named—Haaga also brought forward claims of government abuses of power at City Hall.
One such allegation is that “the Interim City Manager and one or more of the above-named council members were violating open the Utah Governmental Open Meetings Act,” according to Haaga’s notice of claim.
Haaga’s lawsuit joins others filed against the city in the last few months by past and present employees and elected officials. Mayor Kim Rolfe sued the council in August for discussing changes to his authority and pay as mayor—litigation that was rejected by a Salt Lake City judge. In October, West Jordan’s ousted city attorney, Jeff Robinson, filed a notice of claim of his lawsuit against the city for wrongful termination and conspiracy, among other allegations.
Haaga could not be reached for comment and did not respond to voice messages requesting a statement, nor did the Councilmembers who were contacted.
Haaga’s notice of claim was filed against the city of West Jordan as a whole, as well as against the following people:
Bryce Haderlie, former city manager.
Justin Stoker, former city council member and current city employee .
Jeff Robinson, former city attorney
Doug Diamond, chief of police.
David Church, contracted city attorney.
Eric Johnson, contracted city attorney.
Ben Southworth, city councilmember.
Chad Nichols, city councilmember.
Judith Hansen, city councilmember.
Chris McConnehey, city councilmember.
Sophie Rice, city councilmember.