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Indian Wells officials protest wrongful firing result

The city of Indian Wells is in the process of challenging a wrongful termination settlement that was made by First Foundation Bank to a former employee. The city says that the settlement was too small, considering that the man could have received more than $5 million in potential damages, while the bank only paid him about $400,000. The banker had not specified a sought amount of damages in connection with the suit.

City representatives say they have filed legal paperwork protesting the unusually small settlement.

The 50-year-old banker was reportedly fired from his position at First Foundation Bank in September 2011, when he brought up questions about a city manager's pension during a city council meeting. The government official brought the man's statements to the attention of the bank, and they decided to terminate his employment.

Not only was the bank named in the suit, but city officials are also being sued in connection with the wrongful firing. The banker is alleging that the city violated the man's constitutional rights by engaging in political retaliation. He is also charging officials with conspiracy and civil rights violations.

Attorneys in the case say the city is acting to lower its own potential liability, instead of attempting to seek justice in connection with the wrongful termination. If the bank is forced to pay a higher settlement, the liability assigned to the city becomes lower, and so Indian Wells will not have to pay as much.

The city maintains insurance for such situations, but Indian Wells could still end up paying as much as $50,000 in self-insured retention in connection with the claim. Further hearings are scheduled for Sept. 19, according to court documents.

The banker in this case was the alleged victim of wrongful termination because he decided to get involved with his local government. According to claims, representatives of the city pressured his employer to fire him, which leaves both entities potentially culpable.

Source: MyDesert.com, "Indian Wells fights wrongful firing suit deal," Nicole C. Brambila, Sept. 10, 2012

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