Stewart requests apology, threatens lawsuit
Former City Manager Terry Stewart plans on moving forward with his lawsuit against the city and certain members of City Council, he said Wednesday, unless those parties make a public apology for statements that he said impugned his professional reputation.
Stewart said he was talking with his attorney about the matter on Wednesday.
Stewart is eyeing Mayor John Sullivan, Councilmembers Bill Deile, Pete Brandt, Erick Kuehn and Chris Chulakes-Leetz, and Finance Advisory Committee member Sal Grasso for the suit, following a presentation on Monday that used Stewart’s name in conjunction with “manipulated data” provided by MWH to ensure, at all costs, the construction of the North RO water plant.
FAC members claimed that Stewart signed a construction contract 11 months prior to City Council ever seeing the documents.
FAC Chairman Don McKiernan also said during the presentation that MWH manipulated population and water usage projections over the course of three years — between the plant’s inception and construction — to make sure it was built.
Stewart said that he simply wrote the wrong date on the contract, and that he was never in league with MWH.
He added that since he was maligned publicly, a public apology would negate his desire to move forward with the lawsuit.
“Yes, it would take away the need for legal action,” Stewart said.
Grasso said he would not apologize to Stewart because the information that was presented contained no malice “toward him or anybody else.”
Grasso said there was “no way” he would apologize to Stewart because he did not make the presentation Monday night — that was handled by McKiernan — and that he “never accused” Stewart of “ever doing anything wrong.”
Grasso said his goal was simply to “understand why decisions were made to build” the North RO Plant, and not to attack Stewart personally. He did say Stewart “ignored” population projection, however.
“He might have had nothing to do with what took place. I don’t know who was responsible,” Grasso added.
City Council members are provided legal council if challenged with a lawsuit, but its unclear if Grasso would be protected under those same policies.
City Spokeswoman Connie Barron said Grasso was presenting the information “on his own behalf as a citizen.”
“Plus, he is a volunteer board member, and he would not be covered for legal representation for comments he makes as a volunteer,” Barron wrote in an email. “Also, the mayor alluded to the fact that while council might not turn the information over the DOJ (Department of Justice), that would not preclude Mr. Grasso from turning it over as a private citizen.”
Its still also unclear if City Council week seek the opinion of the Department of Justice, who some members of council feel might be able to shed light on whether MWH took advantage of the city regarding the North RO Plant.
Grasso said he had “no opinion to offer” on whether the DOJ should have a look at his research.
“I don’t see the city needing to spend money on another audit. It should be someone who doesn’t cost the city a penny,” Grasso added.
Sullivan and Brandt declined comment on the potential lawsuit. Brandt also declined comment on whether or not lawsuit would effect his re-election campaign.
Chulakes-Leetz and Deile said the lawsuit would “create a good opportunity for discovery.”
Deile added that Stewart “had nothing to gain” by filing the lawsuit, and doubts he’ll file the suit in the first place.
Should he file, Deile said, “It will give us the opportunity to prove it (the presentation) was correct.”
Councilmember Marty McClain said the lawsuit did not come as a surprise.
“With the personal attack we’re seeing displayed, I’m surprised we don’t see letters of intent to sue from other people,” he said.