BLOOMFIELD — A sexual harassment lawsuit originally filed in U.S. District Court in November 2012 against City Manager David Fuqua and the city of Bloomfield was settled for $200,000 earlier this week.
The lawsuit filed by two former city employees, Julie Baird and Julie Rasor, alleged sexual discrimination and harassment, wrongful termination and retaliation, among made other complaints against Fuqua and the city. The settlement agreement was reached on Tuesday.
Another sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit brought against Fuqua and the city last year by Jane Christensen is currently in the discovery phase and is not expected to be decided until later next month.
"The case settled and each of my clients are pleased with the resolution of the matter," said J. Edward Hollington, an Albuquerque attorney who represents the two women. "Julie Baird was paid $62,500 and $37,500 for reimbursement for attorney's fees for a total of $100,000 and the same figures were paid to Ms. Rasor."
The settlement money was paid by the city's insurance, the New Mexico Self Insurers' Fund, which is organized and administered by the New Mexico Municipal League.
"The city disputes all of the plaintiffs' claims, but the insurance company made a financial decision," said Bloomfield City Attorney Ryan Lane. "All the claims against the city manager were dismissed in the interest of justice. There was never any finding of wrongdoing against the city manager or the city."
The decision to settle the case was made by the Municipal League's Ed Zendel, a decision that frustrated Mayor Scott Eckstein.
"I followed the case relatively closely and through all the testimony I heard and the information I got, I'm convinced the city and David (Fuqua) did nothing wrong," Eckstein said. "I was disappointed the insurance chose to settle. I had hoped it would go to trial."
Zindell told Eckstein that the settlement was a purely a business decision, not a personal one, Eckstein said.
"The city — all of us, everybody — felt we had a really strong case. We wanted to take it to trial," Eckstein said. "It's extremely frustrating. You have no idea, but it's out of our hands as far as the city. I tried as hard as I could, and it just didn't work out the way we'd hoped. I went into this with an open mind. With all the Information I learned through meetings with attorneys and all the depositions, I was convinced the city had no liability and that David (Fuqua) did nothing wrong."
For Fuqua, the lawsuit has been both a distraction and a drain on the city.
"All the charges against me were dropped, every single one of them. Nothing's proven. They couldn't prove it," said Fuqua. "I'm not totally happy with the way it ended, but that's insurance. It's about minimizing exposure, not what's right or wrong. That's just the system. It's unfortunate that a lot of people choose to go down this road. It's a sad road. It doesn't do any good — it costs productivity, it hurts the city — and no sides win in something like this, there's no positive to it."
Fuqua said that in his 27 years in public service, he has never been accused of any wrongdoing.
"I've been in public service — seven as a cop, 20 years as a city manager — and my name's never been uttered together with sex harassment. To me, that means something," Fuqua said. "I really regret that it's hurt the citizens of Bloomfield because of projects not been worked on during this time. The citizens have paid a price, too."
Julie Rasor was reached by phone on Friday, but declined to comment on the case, referring questions to her attorney. Attempts to reach Julie Baird by phone were unsuccessful.