Former Douglas County Commissioner Gary Leif and the Douglas County government reached a settlement in a dispute over attorney fees.
The case was dismissed from Douglas County Circuit Court on Jan. 23 because the parties had settled, according to court documents.
Leif filed the suit in December 2019. It was a bit of unfinished business from the Hansen vs. Hartman harassment and retaliation case that at one point involved nine parties, many of them county officials.
County Chief Financial Officer Jessica Hansen alleged in her 2017 lawsuit that then-assessor Roger Hartman had subjected her to gender harassment and retaliated against her after she reported both the harassment and alleged ethics violations.
Hansen alleged Hartman worked with a group of his friends — including Leif — to harass her.
Leif, who asserts he did nothing wrong, said he racked up $12,269 in attorneys’ fees defending himself after he was pulled into the lawsuit.
He argued that the county should have paid his legal fees, because he was a county official. However, some of the allegations involved actions alleged to have taken place before Leif took office. Hansen first notified the county of her intention to sue in November 2016. Leif took office in December of that year.
The county did pay a chunk of Leif’s bills prior to his December 2019 lawsuit. In a 2018 settlement, Leif and the county agreed that payment should be $8,152. This latest dispute arose because the county took about $3,152 of that out to pay Leif’s state and federal withholding taxes. The county treated the settlement payment as a wage, a decision Leif disagreed with in court documents.
The terms of the 2018 settlement state that the county “has not made any representations regarding the income tax treatment of the settlement payments,” and that Leif would be responsible for reporting and paying any taxes associated with the payments.
Leif’s December 2019 lawsuit asked the court to award him a $7,269 payment to cover the rest of his legal bills.
The terms of the settlement reached in January weren’t available in online court records. But both sides confirmed the county paid the $7,269 Leif asked for, as well as another $2,698 in attorney fees from the filing of the December lawsuit.
“I’m very pleased with the settlement, and it resolves all of my outstanding issues,” Leif said.
Douglas County Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Boice said the county agreed to the new settlement to avoid a costly legal battle.
“Despite the fact that Mr. Leif had previously reached and signed a settlement agreement with the county, stating that he agreed to the terms of the agreement, he recently filed suit against the county again,” Boice said in a written statement. “Because, and only because of the fact that it would cost Douglas County taxpayers far more to litigate the lawsuit than to just pay the claim, the county agreed to the terms that were listed in the court documents. This settlement should not be construed as an admission of fault by the County.”