Published Monday, Aug. 8, 2011 | 5:21 p.m.
Updated Monday, Aug. 8, 2011 | 6:54 p.m.
- Henderson City Council to decide fate of city attorney charged with DUI (8-5-2011)
- Henderson city attorney pleads not guilty to DUI charges (6-20-2011)
- Arraignment set for Henderson city attorney on DUI, hit-and-run charges (6-16-2011)
- Henderson city attorney apologizes for ‘misconduct’ after DUI arrest (5-23-2011)
Henderson City Attorney Elizabeth Quillin accepted a $99,500 severance package and resigned Monday following her May drunken driving arrest.
Quillin will walk away from her job as part of a negotiated settlement that will pay her $99,500, plus accrued vacation time and 10 months of COBRA insurance coverage, worth about $3,800. Her resignation is effective immediately.
The City Council had several options before it at a special meeting called Monday to discuss Quillin’s employment.
It could have fired her without cause, entitling Quillin to a severance package worth $320,000 laid out in her contract.
It also could have fired her with cause, under a provision in her contract that prohibits “malfeasance” by an executive official. This option would have paid Quillin only her accrued vacation time.
But city leaders were leery of firing Quillin and risking the case going through litigation and arbitration. After a brief discussion, the council voted unanimously to approve the settlement and accept Quillin’s resignation.
“The worst-case scenario were we to lose … would cost us probably in excess of half a million dollars. Even in the best-case scenario, were we to litigate this issue and win, we would still probably end up spending a similar amount of money to (the settlement),” Councilman Sam Bateman said. “I think it allows us to put the situation behind us and move quickly into hiring a new attorney.”
The specter of former City Manager Mary Kay Peck’s multiyear suit against the city hung over discussions of Quillin’s employment. Peck was fired in 2009 with cause, but an arbitrator ruled the city had violated the terms of her contract and awarded Peck $1.3 million in damages this year.
Mayor Andy Hafen said he was shocked by the size of the award in Peck’s case and that the unpredictability of arbitration pushed him to shy away from possible litigation in Quillin’s case.
Instead, he said he voted to approve the resignation as the most “financially prudent” choice for the city.
“This is a town where gambling and risk are prevalent. I think by accepting this settlement agreement we will minimize the risk and the city can move on,” Hafen said.
The council also voted to name Christine Guerci-Nyhus interim city attorney. Guerci-Nyhus had been acting city attorney following Quillin’s arrest.
Quillin was arrested May 23 in the middle of a workday after crashing her SUV near Paseo Verde Parkway and Carnegie Drive. She failed a field-sobriety test and her blood-alcohol level was revealed to be 0.28, more than three times the legal limit.
After the incident, Quillin entered an alcohol-related rehabilitation program, using vacation and sick-leave time while she was in treatment. She informed the city she was ready to return to work July 12 and was placed on paid administrative leave.
Quillin was not at Monday’s hearing and has not been to City Hall since her arrest, according to a city spokeswoman.
Quillin will face charges of driving under the influence, hit-and-run and having an open container of alcohol in her car at her Sept. 27 trial. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.