After his abrupt dismissal in August, Star Valley’s former town manager Vito Tedeschi filed a lawsuit against the town March 16 claiming the town has failed to make severance payments totaling $29,000. The town is planning to discuss that lawsuit and a possible civil claim against Tedeschi in executive session Tuesday night at Town Hall.
The public can attend the special meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m., but not the executive session.
In a 35-page legal document obtained from the Gila County Superior Court, Tedeschi describes in detail his accomplishments in the 20 months he worked for the town, and says he is entitled to three months of severance pay in accordance with his employment contract. The town has already paid Tedeschi three months out of the six months severance agreed upon in the employment contract, the lawsuit states.
Tedeschi began working for the town Nov. 6, 2006 and was to remain employed for two years.
During his tenure Tedeschi claims he moved Star Valley offices from the Star Valley Baptist Church to Star Vale, hired the town’s first engineer, purchased the town’s first vehicles, set up planning and zoning fees, created a town flag and annexed 18 square miles of National Forest Service land.
If Tedeschi were terminated by a majority vote of the town council before Nov. 6, 2008, he was entitled to three months’ salary. In addition, if the council terminated Tedeschi within the six months following the seating of any council member and Tedeschi was able and willing to perform his duties, he is entitled to severance plus his salary and benefits for any portion of the six months not worked.
The mayor and council members were sworn into office at a June 3 council meeting.
On Aug. 13, Tedeschi sent the town council a letter stating he would not be renewing his employment contract in November, but he would like to extend his services until Dec. 31 to give the town time to find a replacement.
At a council meeting the following day, councilors voted to accept Tedeschi’s resignation effective immediately, which Tedeschi claims in the lawsuit, ended his contract almost three months before scheduled.
“It is clear from the above that although Star Valley’s council has characterized Tedeschi’s letter as a ‘resignation,’ Tedeschi was in fact terminated in accordance with the employment agreement, i.e., by the majority vote of Star Valley’s council at a duly authorized public meeting,” said attorney Edwinus M. van Vianen.
Tedeschi’s letter was not offering his resignation for immediate acceptance; therefore, Star Valley is obliged to pay severance, the lawsuit states.
Tedeschi calculated that the town owes him $29,000 for three months of pay at a salary rate of $51 an hour.
On Dec. 5, Tedeschi’s attorney sent the town a letter detailing the contractual dispute and money owed. Star Valley’s insurance company, Southwest Risk Services, responded in an e-mail Dec. 18 that “realistically it will take until after the holidays for us to get our hands around this matter.”
Tedeschi’s lawsuit claims Star Valley has ignored numerous attempts to get a response or answer.
Town Attorney and Manager Tim Grier said he would not comment on the lawsuit, but did say the town will discuss the matter in Tuesday night’s executive session.
Tom McMahon with Southwest Risk services said he could not comment on the case.