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City will pay fired ambulance director $43,875 plus

By Dawn Schuett

schuett@postbulletin.com

PLAINVIEW — A civil lawsuit brought against the city of Plainview by its former ambulance director has been settled out of court for $43,875.

The city agreed to pay the sum to Eric Sawyer and his attorney, along with a $1,125 fee for mediation.

The lawsuit, dismissed last month in Wabasha District Court after the settlement was reached, was filed in April 2007.

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The suit named the city and Plainview City Administrator Steven Robertson and its liaisons for the ambulance division, James Pederson and Lee M. Peterson, as defendants in the case.

Sawyer alleged in the suit that the city, city administrator and liaisons, discriminated against him based on his sexual orientation in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Sawyer claimed that Robertson, Pederson and Peterson ignored the policies and procedures in the city’s personnel manual when they recommended his termination in 2006 for violating terms of the policy that did not apply to him. The lawsuit also alleged that the city ignored the violations of the personnel manual.

In agreeing to the settlement, the city did not admit wrongdoing. At a recent city council meeting, a statement was read thanking Sawyer for his 16 years of service to the city. Before Sawyer became the ambulance director in 2003, he volunteered with the department.

Robertson referred questions about the settlement to Jana O’Leary Sullivan, a defense attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities who represented the city in the case.

O’Leary Sullivan said the city of Plainview is continuing to review its personnel manual, policies and procedures in an effort to ensure full compliance with the laws.

"The league in general, not just the litigation department, is interested in encouraging cities to periodically review their policies just to make sure they are including all the protected categories and mirroring the language of the applicable statutes," O’Leary Sullivan said.

Dawn Schuett covers news in Goodhue and Wabasha counties. If you have news tips or story ideas, call her at (507) 281-7487.

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