Council votes to settle lawsuit with former town manager
CAVE CREEK – The Town of Cave Creek spent over half a million dollars including legal fees after settling a three-year lawsuit with former town manager Usama Abujbarah, unanimously approving a $300,000 settlement during a special town council meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 12.
The nearly $3 million lawsuit was originally filed by Abujbarah in September 2013 against the town after he was fired, alleging his constitutional rights were violated, and he was wrongfully terminated when voted out of his position during a special session in June 2013; specifically naming former councilmen Mike Durkin, Reg Monachino, Charles Spitzer, and Adam Trenk in the claim.
During the meeting, the town council discussed the monetary benefits of finally settling with Abujbarah instead of taking the $2.96 million claim, which included $1 million for emotional distress and injury to reputation, as well as $1 million for punitive damages, to court.
“It is my recommendation, and the recommendation of your defense attorneys to agree on a number you can settle on,” said Town Attorney Bill Sims while addressing the town council at the meeting.
Sims said Cave Creek would be wise to settle the lawsuit and compensate Abujbarah with damages rather than continue to pay for legal fees, with the town already spending over $200,000 in legal expenses. He noted that there were over thirty boxes of documents associated with the lawsuit, and the town’s newly contracted legal firm would have to spend time reading all of it if the town did not settle.
“The only winners will be the three lawyers involved,” said Sims.
Mayor Vincent Francia spoke out after motioning to approve a $300,000 settlement with Abujbarah, saying that continuing to fix the actions of the four recalled council members who voted to fire Abujbarah could get very expensive if the town pursued the lawsuit any further.
“It is kind of a roll of the dice when you go before a judge and or jury,” Francia said.
The mayor pointed out that he voted against firing Abujbarah, knowing it would only cause harm to the community; he says he tried convincing the majority of the town council to not fire him in, “that fashion.”
“It was wrong in terms of lack of dignity of a council,” said Francia while explaining his support of settling. “He was a town manager through the years who had done an enormous amount of work, and I don’t mean to cast Usama as a saint. Of all the things that had to go into Spur Cross, Usama was very much a part of it. I support this.”
The motion to settle with Abujbarah passed unanimously.