Woodburn takes attorney fee dispute to federal court
The city of Woodburn has initiated a lawsuit in federal court to settle a dispute over attorney's fees between two former Woodburn police officers and the attorney who represented them in a lawsuit against the city filed in 2014.
Attorney Jeffrey Boiler filed a $4 million lawsuit on behalf of Woodburn Police Department Officers Dan Kelly, Peter Lichte and Jarrod Bowers in September 2014 against the city of Woodburn, former police Chief Scott Russell, former police Capt. Jason Alexander, former Sgt. John Mikkola and former Human Resource Director Michael Hereford. The city settled the lawsuit in December 2017, awarding $735,000 to the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit accused department heads of retaliating against whistleblowing by the plaintiffs by conducting "sham" internal affairs investigations, planting drug paraphernalia in a plaintiff's patrol car and creating a hostile work environment, which allegedly included threats of violence.
In the lawsuit Bowers claimed that he was threatened in response to criticizing Alexander for allegedly harassing employees and even a crime victim. Kelly claimed that WPD put him on probation and deliberately mishandled an investigation into an incident in 2009, when Mikkola allegedly attempted to sexually assault Kelly's then-girlfriend.
Bowers remains employed by the police department, while Lichte and Kelly were terminated in 2016 for violating department policy regarding recorded conversations, according to court records.
Now Boiler is demanding attorney fees from the last settlement payment due to Lichte and Kelly, according to the city's federal court complaint. Boiler's co-counsel Chris Lundberg told the city after the settlement agreement was made in December that Boiler would not be part of the settlement and would not need taxpayer forms for payment.
On Dec. 11, 2017, the first payments under the settlement agreement were made, and Lundberg's firm received $68,883.48 in attorney fees. Then on Dec. 26, 2017, the city received a letter from Boiler stating that he was also owed attorney fees related to the lawsuit, demanding that any remaining payments under the settlement agreement be paid jointly to Bowers and the plaintiffs.
Lichte and Kelly attempted to settle the dispute with Boiler, but the parties were unable to reach an agreement. The city was unable to determine who is entitled to receive the remaining $304,062.15 from the settlement agreement, and brought the case to the Marion County Circuit Court Feb. 19.
The case was transferred from the circuit court to the United States District Court April 9.