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EX-SANDY ATTORNEY WINS `FULL VINDICATION’ IN LAWSUIT

SHARE EX-SANDY ATTORNEY WINS `FULL VINDICATION’ IN LAWSUIT

Former Sandy City Attorney Robert H. Copier has been awarded $47,235 plus interest and court costs in his dispute with the city over severance pay.

"From my perspective, this is a full vindication," said Copier. "This case should have been resolved a long time ago."Copier, who was city attorney from 1982 to 1986 in former Mayor Larry Smith's administration, was dismissed shortly after Mayor Steve Newton took office. The controversy that followed became a political and then a legal debate that was not resolved until this week.

Copier argued that he was entitled to six-months severance pay and a "quiet, professional parting of the ways" when Newton decided to replace him. The city offered him about $20,000, a settlement that Copier said he would have accepted had Newton not made a public issue of the matter.

"I took this to court to enforce our severance-pay agreement and, more importantly, to clear my name," Copier said.

Newton, too, believes that the dispute could have been settled three years ago without the expense of a court suit. "He (Copier) had accepted $20,000 and then he turned around and sued," Newton said. "We alleged in our case that the issue had been previously settled."

Copier says it was Newton who backed out of the agreement. "He was a member of the City Council that originally approved the severance pay," Copier said. And he argues that, although the city's offer of $28,000 minus an $8,000 offset was low, he would have taken it to spare himself and the city the expense of a suit.

"But he (Newton) wanted to turn it into a public controversy for his own reasons," Copier said, "and so I went to court."

Once in court, Sandy filed counterclaims against Copier, who responded with an amended complaint alleging wrongful dismissal, retaliatory acts and defamation. Judge Kenneth Rigtrup's judgment precluded a hearing on those issues since Copier was awarded full compensation.

"Obviously we're not happy about it," Newton said. "We don't think the judgment is appropriate by any means."

Newton said the city hasn't decided whether to appeal the judgment. "The question is, how much bleeding do you do before you say `forget it?' "