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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : SEAL BEACH

City Will Settle With Fired Treasurer

Elizabeth Stoddard will receive $129,000 in her wrongful termination suit. Council's vote is unanimous.

March 16, 2000|ANDRE BRISCOE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Hoping to avoid a drawn-out legal battle and move on, the Seal Beach City Council voted unanimously Monday to pay former City Treasurer Elizabeth Stoddard $129,000 to end her wrongful termination lawsuit against the city and the city manager.

Stoddard was fired Sept. 10 by City Manager Keith Till for what Till described at the time as "philosophical differences" between them.

One week before she was fired, Stoddard and her staff received a national award for excellence in financial reporting.

After her dismissal, Stoddard alleged she was fired over a dispute with Till regarding the tax status of interest payments on a $75,000 home loan given to Till by the city.

Three days after her firing, Stoddard filed a claim against the city alleging emotional distress and wrongful termination. Stoddard's suit sought damages in excess of $184,000.

Councilman Shawn Boyd said the settlement was the best thing for both the city and Stoddard.

"I personally wish this thing could have been settled before she was let go," Boyd said. "But at this point our decision to settle the case was a business decision we had to make in the best interest of the city. . . . It was simply a matter of practicality."

Boyd said if the city pursued the case further it would cost Seal Beach taxpayers much more than the $129,000 and approximately $10,000 in legal fees.

The $129,000 represents Stoddard's yearly income as city treasurer, including benefits.

Seal Beach Mayor Paul Yost, in a statement released Monday, admitted the situation could have been handled better.

"There were some mistakes and judgment errors by a number of persons involved which, at this point, leads us to the conclusion it is in the best interests of all parties to settle the matter and move on."

Stoddard could not be reached for comment and Till would not discuss the settlement.

Andre Briscoe can be reached at (714) 966-5848.

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